Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kings v. Ducks - The NHL Debut of Martin Jones

Hermano here.

I remember my first NHL game, playing goalie for the LA Kings.  Let me rephrase that: I remember my first game playing on the LA Kings practice rink.  

Martin Jones, an undrafted goalie, was supposed to make “the leap” to the NHL last season.  Unfortunately for Jones, a number of circumstances led to him playing the entirety of last season with the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings’ AHL affiliate.  First, Quick didn’t exactly fully recover from off-season back surgery, which led to more playing time for Jonathan Bernier.  Second, Bernier saved the Kings shortened season with his outstanding play, thereby causing Lombardi to think twice about trading him mid-season.  Third, Jones took a step backward and didn’t have the season in the AHL the Kings management thought he was going to have.  But once Bernier got traded this past offseason, it was a foregone conclusion that Jones would be starting the season backstopping Jonathan Quick. 

Oh wait.  Hi, Ben Scrivens! 

Photo (and meme) courtesy of The Royal Half

Since the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be when I was old enough to form memories was a hockey goalie, I think I’ll spend an entire post commenting on the NHL debut of Martin Jones. 

Thoughts on Martin Jones:

I’m too lazy to research whether any NHL team currently fields two undrafted goalies, but I’m going to guess no.  (Does the tandem of Dubnyk and LaBarbera count? Low blow, I know.  But Babs was a former King whom I supported during the Dark Years, so quit your whining.)

First Period:

Wow, I love the mask:

Martin Jones's mask for the 2011-2012 season. The 2013 version is very similar.
This has to be one of the sickest masks by an LA Kings goalie since Quick rocked the throwback Rogie Vachon.  

Jones is not aggressive playing the puck, which is pretty much consistent with the LA Kings School of Goaltending.  

What’s the longest a goalie has gone in his NHL debut before seeing his first shot?  You might think it’s pretty nice not seeing your first shot almost 10 minutes into the first period, but it sucks since you never get to establish a rhythm.  It really doesn’t help when your first save has to come against Saku Koivu, all alone in the slot.  Jones comes up with a brilliant save, positioning himself perfectly.  You might think it’s luck that Koivu didn’t elevate the puck higher, but Jones went all or nothing with the poke check and kept his glove positioned above his pad to make the stop and prevent any rebound.  First test passed.  For a goalie, there is nothing worse for your psyche than letting in a goal on your first shot, regardless if it's your NHL debut or not. 

You have to love the Kings and their defensive style of play, especially on the penalty kill.  They lay out, block shots, tip pucks wide, play the body and make the other team earn every pass, they do all the right things. 

Jones is 6’4”, 189 pounds.  So basically, he’s like a taller version of myself.  And younger.  Yeah, that's probably where the differences end.

/checks self in mirror, does 100 pushups.

Jones plays pretty deep in his crease against point shots.  Not quite Lundqvist deep.  And thankfully he’s not skating to the faceoff dots to stop shots from the blue line like Tim Thomas.  So far, Jones reminds me of a bigger version of Bernier.  And it’s not because Jim Fox has said three times already that Jones is “calm and cool” in the net, something that Bernier oozes.  

Shots 6, Saves 6. 

Second Period:

I’m not sure I understand the Ducks’ strategy of only taking shots during the second half of each period. 

Is there anything more impossible to stop than a wrist shot from Carter?  Kings lead 1-0. 

Shit, a good save from Jones but not enough defenders to prevent Getzlaf from batting it in the back of the net.  Jones did what he could on that original shot, but three Ducks crashed the net and only Willie Mitchell was there to prevent any second chances.  Credit to Getzlaf for crashing the net.  No credit to Getzlaf for squeezing into that orange cone of a Stadium Series jersey.  Tied 1-1. 

Okay, I know Jones is 6’4” and I know, technically speaking, he can play deeper in his crease than someone like Bernier, but it’s giving me a fucking heart attack.  Quick snap shot from above the circles and Jones, playing within probably a foot inside his crease, barely gets his shoulder on it, deflecting it into the corner.  That one definitely caught him off guard.

Great save by Jones against Penner off a 2-on-1 rush, produced by a sloppy Kings giveaway during 4-on-4 play.  Penner made a nice play by faking the deke and trying to slip it tweeners on Jones.  You gotta love how composed Jones was on that play, making the save look easy.  But thank god Penner didn’t have more skill like, oh I don’t know, Kopitar:

4-on-3: Jones got lucky on that one.  He’s in a half-assed V-H position and his stick barely stops that sneaky shot by Bonino, leaving a fat rebound that Jones manages to cover.  Whatever, it’s better to be lucky than good.  And I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of attitude it takes to make it to the NHL.

Jones with an excellent save on Selanne, coming out past the crease to cut down the angle.  The Kings are monster penalty killers, but Jones still had to make 4 saves on that last kill. 

I know I intended to talk exclusively about Martin Jones, but how invisible has Dustin Brown been this season?  Seriously, if Sutter scratched him, would we notice? 

Shots: 11, Saves: 10

Third Period:

I’m loving how aggressive Martin Jones is with the poke-check.  I haven’t seen a Kings goalie like that since Robb Stauber.  Okay, maybe Jones isn’t quite that aggressive. 

A complete breakdown on the penalty kill leads to a Ducks goal.  Da-Wight King had TWO clear chances to clear the puck, but instead hesitated as if to say “YOU clear it!”  The puck finds Perry all alone in front of the crease, he freezes Jones, and properly finishes.  Jones with no chance on that one – welcome to the NHL, kid.  Ducks 2-1.

Dustin Brown: Just when I think I’m out… he PULLLLLLLLS me back in.  (But we all know Brown’s shot was going three feet wide.)  Tied 2-2. 

Wow, Bob Miller just said the Ducks have 23 shots after almost 50 minutes of play.  That seems pretty high – I was thinking the Ducks had something more like 16 or 17 shots on goal.  

I know the action has been exciting, but I’m sweating balls over here since the Kings are basically just giving the Ducks every offensive break in the third period.  Thankfully, there haven’t been too many quality chances, but I’m waiting for the hammer to drop.  With this sloppy play, I’ll be happy to grab a point and take our chances in overtime.

Great save by Jones after he botches stick-handling behind his net.  Then Perry with a dick-move, shoving his blade into the chest of Jones after Jones clearly made the save.  Perry did the ol’ “I was pushed into the goalie!” routine – except no one was within 3 feet of him. 

Okay, one minute to go in regulation and this game is proving that a playoff series between these two teams would shave 10 years off my life. Thankfully, I plan on being black-out drunk by the time I enter Dodger Stadium in January, which will probably only shave off 2 years of my life.  Win-Win!

Penalty kill with 28.7 seconds left in the game.  At this point, Jones is probably doing breathing exercises and chanting “Serenity Now.”  The Ducks get two great chances, but can’t find the net.  Jones earns a point in his first NHL game.  Not a bad debut, especially against the second place team in the Pacific.   

Shots: 10, Saves: 9


Sweet, another penalty.  Can we call a timeout and inspect all of Corey Perry’s balsa wood sticks? 

Penner takes an interference penalty and all hell breaks loose with how many skaters need to be on the ice.  I’m sure everyone in the arena paid good money to see all the refs and coaches point three or four fingers at each other. 

Jones with an easy (but pretty!) glove save on Lovejoy’s shot from the point.  Harmless, but good to see Jones challenge the shooter beyond his crease.  I wonder if Billy Ranford had a conversation with Jones after the first period. 

Kings with some unreal chances in overtime, but can’t finish.  This is the most effort I’ve seen from the Kings in a back-to-back.  The Ducks bring out the best (and worst) of the Kings.  Regardless of the outcome, I think this game proved to any doubters that next year’s Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium is going to be memorable. 

Shots: 1, Saves: 1


Perry: Sweet move, Perry.  Goes wide, probably kisses the boards, then drags it and sends it off the post.  I’m concerned how deep Jones was in his net when Perry had his stick face open all day long.

Getzlaf: Hahaha, not even close.  Sweet move, Getzlaf. 

Bonino: Does Bonino know he’s in a shootout?  It’s like someone was controlling him in NHL 13 and simply pressed the “shoot” button.  What a joke.

Koivu: No way Koivu scores even if he didn’t fumble the puck at the last minute.  Jones with the leg extension, but Koivu with the miss. 

Selanne: I feel ill right now.  Sweet save by Jones.  He stands his ground and stops the tweeners shot.  Man, that was a lot closer than it originally looked.

Penner: I really feel ill right now.  Haha, same move he tried on the 2-on-1 back in the second period.  Jones closes up well, moving side-to-side.  Solid fundamentals from Jones, not overreacting to anything.

Palmieri: Great low pad save by Jones.  Jim is right – the Ducks realize they’re not gonna fake out Jones, especially with how he doesn’t bite on any fakes.  

Beleskey: Nice blocker save.  Frankly, I have no clue why Beleskey is out there.  Darryl Sutter sees your random pick, Bruce, and raises you Dwight King. 


Perreault: Hahahaha, nice try.  Were you asleep when Dustin Penner tried his shootout move?  Grind some film, buddy.  Jones ain’t gonna open up for you.  Better luck next time, Ducks.

What an absolutely outstanding game and a night Martin Jones will never forget.  He was solid in net, wasn’t tested too much (except for that first shot on goal), didn’t let in any soft goals, and came up huge in the shootout.  At this point, if I’m Dean Lombardi, I’m telling Quick to take all the time he needs. 

Congratulations, Jones, you earned your first NHL win in spectacular fashion.  You know who else won his NHL debut against the Ducks?  Just some kid named Jonathan Bernier. 

Much love till my next post.