2017 Playoff Preview: Martin Jones vs Cam Talbot
The San Jose Sharks proved to the hockey world last season that they were capable of making through the conference semi-final. They unfortunately did not stand a chance against the powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins in the final, but the experience gained was extremely valuable – especially for goaltender Martin Jones.
Experience will be a key theme heading into the series against an Edmonton Oilers team with very little of it. That’s what happens when you fail to qualify for the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons. Speaking with the media about it, Cam Talbot was calm and unfazed – just like he is on the ice. Both goaltenders play with ice in their veins. Will Talbot’s playoff inexperience cause him to crack first? Will Connor McDavid prove to be too much for Jones to handle? There are some great storylines heading into this one.
(statistics via Corsica Hockey)
A lot of talk has gone into the fact that Cam Talbot had the most games played out of any goaltender in the NHL this season, but Martin Jones wasn’t far behind. At 65 games played, the Sharks heavily relied on the pride of North Vancouver, BC throughout the regular season.
Statistically, Jones had slightly above-average numbers in the 2016-17 season. While his games played total is close to Talbot, he faced over 100 fewer high-danger scoring chances than the Edmonton netminder. This goes to show that the Sharks defence does a great job of keeping shooters out of difficult-to-stop areas, and Jones does an adequate job of fending off shots from the outside. The McDavid factor will be key, as Jones isn’t normally accustomed to facing a large number of high-danger scoring opportunities.
If the Sharks are able to do a reasonable job of shutting down the Oilers top line, that could be enough to take the series. Jones will certainly need to find another gear if he wants to go on another long playoff run – but other issues, like the health of Logan Couture and Joe Thornton, could be their downfall.
No goaltender in the NHL played more minutes this season than Cam Talbot. Starting the year with Jonas Gustavsson as the backup proved to be a disaster (as if nobody saw that coming), and the team was incredibly reluctant to start Laurent Brossoit until they had officially clinched a playoff spot. Brossoit ended up performing very well down the stretch in the handful of games that he played, proving their worries to be unfounded. Time will tell if the decision to ride Talbot will cause issues as the playoffs wear on. Hopefully, for the Oilers sake, he can stay healthy.
Talbot is also the only goaltender in the Stanley Cup playoffs this year with the distinct advantage of not having to face Connor McDavid. With that being said, Jones and Talbot had relatively similar statistics this season. Talbot simply faced a ton of shots due to the amount of games that he played in, and his medium-danger save percentage was unusually high – which led to a whopping 27.96 5v5 GSAA for the Oilers netminder.
The pride of Hamilton, Ontario has had a long road. Although he has played in 1 career playoff game with the New York Rangers, this is the real moment that he has been waiting for. A determined Cam Talbot could be exactly what the Oilers need to put them over the top. Experience be damned.
Both goaltenders tend to play a more passive game, staying inside the blue paint on most scoring chances. Unnecessary risks aren’t usually in the game plan. Both goaltenders have game-breaking ability, but this series might come down to which goaltender is forced to leave his comfort zone first.