SAN JOSE – If you’re just joining the Sharks-Oilers first round series ahead of Game 4 and you take a quick glance at the league stats, you might think that both goaltenders have been playing some lights-out hockey. Edmonton’s Cam Talbot has a 0.98 goals-against average and .964 save percentage through three games, while Martin Jones’ 1.66 GAA and .935 SP are also impressive.
But despite those numbers, goaltending hasn’t played a huge role in the series so far. Sure, Talbot and Jones have been excellent, but neither team has generated an abundance of outstanding chances.
“I don’t think a goaltender has been asked to steal a game,” Pete DeBoer said. “Probably the closest was Talbot in Game 1. But, you’ve got two of the top goalies in the league. I think they’ve both been solid. It’s pretty much been a non-factor because they’ve both just been really solid.”
Todd McLellan said: “They’re both quality goaltenders. They’re at the top of their games right now. I think that’s a big part of it, but both defensive mindsets of the teams have been detailed. There haven’t been many chances.”
Both teams will try to break out in Game 4 on Tuesday at SAP Center, with the Oilers holding a two-games-to-one lead.
The Sharks, of course, haven’t scored in either of the past two playoff games for just the second time in franchise history. They need to make life harder on Talbot, but they also have to stop missing the net. Their two best chances in the first period of Game 3 – arguably the only period in which they’ve outplayed Edmonton since Game 1 – came when Joe Pavelski missed an open net with a backhand from the slot, and Chris Tierney fired high and wide on a partial breakaway.
Getting enough bodies in front of and around Talbot, too, has been missing. The Sharks have just 39 combined shots in the last two games, and not many second chances.
“[Talbot is] in a groove right now so that's on us to get traffic,” Logan Couture said. “There's definitely rebounds sitting around. I think [in Game 3] he was having trouble catching the puck in the first, and we just didn't get there for the rebounds. Their D did a good job boxing guys out. It's on us to get to the net, get to those tough places and score on those rebounds."
Pavelski said: “We haven't tested him enough.”
Jones has allowed five goals to Talbot’s three, but the Sharks’ netminder has seen the better of the Grade A chances. While Zack Kassian’s game-winning goal in Game 3 was probably a stoppable shot, Jones denied Connor McDavid on a wraparound with 3:38 to go in the second period when the game was still scoreless, and 30 second later quickly went from his right to his left to deny McDavid on a one-timer from the top of the circle.
After he was a rock for the Sharks in the 2016 playoffs, Jones has picked up right where he’s left off.
“He’s been solid,” Pavelski said. “There haven’t been any questions there about him for us. That’s what he’s always shown us.”
They just need to find him some goals, and they need to do it quickly.
“We’ve just got to give him some run support here going forward,” Justin Braun said. “Just got to get in Talbot’s eyes and whack home some rebounds here. I think the forwards are up to the challenge.”
Joe Thornton said: “It’s going to be those 1-0, 2-1 games. That’s just how our mindset is right now. … Just cash in what you get the chance.”