Before the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016, the San Jose Sharks were 18-16-2 and an afterthought in the Stanley Cup playoff picture.
Fast-forward to the end of January and the Sharks are on a 10-game point streak (8-0-2) and in position to potentially host a playoff series. While the Sharks are traditionally known for scoring, defense from players such as Martin Jones and Joe Thornton fueled their success in January.
After backing up Jonathan Quick on the Los Angeles Kings for two years, Jones has been the primary goaltender for the Sharks this season. Jones has played 40 games, six more than he did in his first two seasons combined.
Jones had a .912 save percentage through the end of December. That ranked 20th among goalies with at least 1,000 minutes of ice time. While he has struggled on the power play, Jones had a .946 save percentage at even strength in January. He allowed 11 even-strength goals in 10 games, according to war-on-ice.com.
According to war-on-ice, the Sharks allowed 78 even-strength, high-danger scoring chances in January. That was a rate of 8.0 per 60 minutes, second lowest in the league behind the Anaheim Ducks at 7.9. In total, the Sharks allowed 20.7 even-strength scoring chances per 60 minutes in January, tied for fewest in the league.
Jones’ strong performance in net was amplified by the ability of the Sharks to limit opponent scoring chances, led by center Joe Thornton. Thornton has a 16.9 percent Corsi for relative percentage this season, which is calculated by subtracting the percent of total shots the Sharks get with Thornton on the ice minus their percent of total shots when Thornton is off the ice, all at even strength. Thornton ranks third in the NHL in this metric this season.
Thornton’s takeaways have been a difference-maker for the Sharks. Thornton has 40 takeaways this season, eighth in the NHL. In the past nine seasons, Thornton’s 613 takeaways are second to Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (730).