Photo credit:David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
Martin Jones has been the NHL’s top goaltender in high-danger situations
By Steven Ellis1 month ago
Ah, goaltending. What a mystery.
Hands up if you had 34-year-old Martin Jones being Toronto’s top goaltender at the halfway point of the season. If you did, you’re either sinister and looking for chaos, or you’re just lying.
But after starting the season splitting the Toronto Marlies’ crease with Keith Petruzzeli and Dennis Hildeby – and getting outplayed, I might add – Jones has quickly become one of the NHL’s top goaltenders in terms of high-danger save percentage.
Earlier this year, the NHL released its EDGE site – its first public data service using its puck-tracking technology. One of the tracked stats is high-danger save percentage, looking at shots within 29 feet of the center of the goal line. Essentially, all shots from within the slot.
While 15 games isn’t a huge sample size, no goaltender has a higher save percentage than Jones’ .868, edging out two of the best goaltenders in the league in Jacob Markstrom and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Only one goaltender – Vegas’ Adin Hill (13) – has allowed fewer high-danger goals in the NHL through 15 games than Jones’ 15. Jones also has a perfect save percentage on long-range shots originating around the blue line.
And that’s just one data source. According to Natural Stat Trick, Jones’ .905 HDSV at 5-on-5 is far and away the best in the NHL, with Markstrom sitting second at .878. Jones also boasts a high-danger goals-saved above average of 7.34, which is quite remarkable given it typically favors goalies with more starts. He’s sixth out of 62 goaltenders with at least 15 games played, and the only goaltender in the top 10 with fewer than 20 games played. When looking at rate stats, Jones’ .943 save percentage at 5-on-5 is .001 off of Vezina Trophy-frontrunner Connor Hellebuyck for the league-lead.
Even when you select time spent leading in a game, Jones’ .945 save percentage is third in the NHL. And that’s remarkable given the team’s inability to hold leads as of late. Some of the goals have been on Jones, but defensive breakdowns are the most notable culprit.
It’s crazy to think a guy making a hair over league minimum would be this good. When the Leafs signed him, he almost definitely looked like a waiver-wire target somewhere. He’s a veteran of over 450 NHL games, but with a career save percentage of .906, could the Leafs trust him in a pinch? He had some ugly starts with the Marlies with a .870 save percentage, and even when he had 27 wins last year, he still only put up a .887 SV. In fact, before this year with his .922 SV, he hadn’t surpassed the .900 mark since his .915 in 2017-18 with San Jose. The following year, he had a 36-19-5 record, but still had just a .896 SV.
Bad goals seemed to have followed Jones everywhere, but he’s been such an incredible contributor to the Leafs this year. In a season that saw Joseph Woll go down with an injury and Ilya Samsonov’s game fall off a cliff, it’s remarkable. In fact, Samsonov is in the bottom five in almost every major statistical category this year, finding himself in the same category as former Leafs’ starter Jack Campbell.
We still don’t know exactly when Woll will be back. But if Jones keeps playing the way he has, he might need to remain the No. 1 goaltender the rest of the way. After assuming the starting role in Seattle last year, signing in Toronto essentially felt like a last-ditch effort to keep Jones’ career alive. If Toronto’s goaltending situation went to plan, he was have just served as mentor for the Marlies. But now that the Leafs need him, he’s playing some of the best hockey of his NHL career – and nobody could have seen that coming.
And that’s why people say goaltenders are voodoo.
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