Why improved goaltending must be key to Sharks turning season around

Chelena Goldman

For the Sharks to have success moving forward, the team is going to have to channel the performance they had on Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets as well as Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Well, except that maybe Martin Jones should channel everything except the last couple of minutes of both of those games, since the opposition found the back of the net. 

Through three games so far on the current six-game homestand, the Sharks have played two games in which they've felt good about their defensive effort and the offensive push that followed. Both of those games, however, also featured the opposing team scoring goals late in the game that made things all too interesting.

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There's no denying it.

If San Jose is going to have any chance of turning the season around, the goaltending needs to be a lot better. 

This isn't to say the team getting outscored 58-40 is entirely the fault of Jones and backup Aaron Dell. The Sharks' five-on-five play has had trouble establishing a rhythm through the first month-plus of the season and has struggled as a unit to find the back of the net. Meanwhile, the defense has struggled with finding its identity right up until Tuesday's game when Radim Simek returned to eat up some minutes and balance out the blue line's responsibilities. With the team in front of them having trouble, it would be hard for any netminder to completely keep the team in every game.

But in two games where the Sharks have played up to their potential, the effort between the pipes hasn't quite matched. Jones gave up the game-winning goal to the Jets with 1:24 left in regulation last Thursday after San Jose's offense outshot Winnipeg 39-15 in the first two periods alone. Then on Tuesday against Chicago, Jones surrendered a shut-out bid with the Sharks up 3-0 by allowing two goals within 68-seconds at the end of regulation. 

While both of those games were Jones' starts, Dell isn't completely off the hook. He has followed up his brilliant start in Montreal last month with two starts that have left little to be desired. 

Sharks can't afford another season where goaltending can't get the job done. Since the Sharks were scoring more goals last season, they were able to stay competitive in their division and then get all the way to a Western Conference Final despite not having the best tandem tending twine. But the Sharks aren't scoring as many goals so far this season -- ergo, the contingent between the pipes has less wiggle room.

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This is the goaltending group the Sharks have to work with -- at least for the foreseeable future. There have been questions as to whether the Sharks might consider calling up Josef Korenar from the Barracuda, but there's no guarantee the rookie netminder's 1.82 GAA will translate seamlessly to the NHL level. For now, San Jose needs to work with what they have. 

With the Sharks as far down in the standings as they are 16 games into the season, every facet of their game has to turn around if they're going to somehow climb out of the hole they're in. They won't be able to make any kind of a climb if the goaltending doesn't tighten up as well. 

Why improved goaltending must be key to Sharks turning season around originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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