On Tuesday afternoon, many Kings fans were unexcited when they heard that it would be Martin Jones starting in goal for Los Angeles that night instead of Ben Scrivens. While few fans are fond of seeing their team’s goaltender play on consecutive nights, the news of Jones filling in for Ben Scrivens at the tail end of Los Angeles’s back-to-back schedule didn’t exactly leave the Kingdom with a feeling of jubilation.
Upon hearing the news, much of the Royal Army was feeling tentative. I, for one, stated that I was “reluctantly excited”. The reaction wasn’t meant as disrespect towards Martin Jones as it was a collective feeling of insecurity knowing that a rookie netminder was set to make his NHL debut against one of the league’s top teams in the Anaheim Ducks and their building, the Honda Center, where before Tuesday night, they sported a 10-0-1 record. That alone should have invoked fear into the Kingdom, even Jones himself to an extent.
After excelling in junior with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, the 23-year-old backstop signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings. From there, he played one game with Los Angeles’s ECHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, during the 2010-11 season. Then, he was promoted to the AHL where he shone in goal for the Manchester Monarchs.
Jones went on to spend three seasons with the Monarchs before entering the 2013-14 campaign where he put a 2.24 goals-against average and .927 save percentage while accumulating a 9-2-2 record in 13 games with the Kings’ AHL affiliate. Then, in mid-November, the Kings received devastating news when learning that they would be without the services of Jonathan Quick until the end of the calendar year. But bad news for one sometimes mean good news for the other – and Martin Jones fit the latter in this case.
While he has been up with the big club for a few weeks, the native of North Vancouver, BC, hasn’t seen any ice time. That was until Tuesday evening and, at that point, it was interesting to see how the rookie would fare considering some of said reluctance turned into a negative attitude where some fans went as far as suggesting that the Kings would lose the game altogether.
Fans of the Los Angeles Kings needn’t have worried.
While he started off stopping just six to Jonas Hiller’s 16 in the first period, Martin Jones made a good first impression on those doubters before, despite allowing a goal, doing one better in the second by turning away 10 shots.
In the third, Jones allowed an early power play to Corey Perry but settled down as he stopped nine in the final frame to force overtime where he faced just one shot.
If the Kingdom was impressed by Martin Jones’s play during regulation, they hadn’t seen anything yet.
In the shootout, Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller was spectacular. But Martin Jones was even better matching Hiller with each shot, not allowing a single goal through a marathon nine rounds, saving eight of those shots.
Perry, Getzlaf, Nick Bonino, Koivu, Selanne, former King Dustin Penner, Kyle Palmeiri, Matt Beleskey and finally Mathieu Perreault, the Ducks shooters had nothing on the inexperienced Jones who, like Ben Scrivens had done over the last couple of weeks, helped his team earn two points.
Before Tuesday’s game, Kings’ fans were feeling uneasy. Following Tuesday’s game, those same fans had a new favourite player in Martin Jones.
Now, in all fairness, this was just one game. But being thrown into the fire the way he did and coming out victorious not only shows his immense skill but it displays the character of the rookie Jones front-and-center.
If there’s anything negative to come from Tuesday’s win, it’s begging the question of what to do with Los Angeles’s goaltending situation once Jonathan Quick becomes healthy enough to return to the lineup. But then again, that is a dilemma most teams would kill (hopefully not literally) to have.
While he is by no means the number-one netminder in Los Angeles, Martin Jones does have an advantage in size standing at 6-foot-4 and while that may not necessarily translate into success, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Just ask Hall-of-Fame netminder Ken Dryden.
Whether you want to credit Martin Jones himself, the team’s exceptional farm system, the scouting staff for signing him or (Kings’ goaltending coach) Bill Ranford, it is evident just how good of shape the Los Angeles Kings are in, among other areas, goal where not too long ago, they were a laughing stock. What a difference just a few years make.
In respect to the orchestra of the Los Angeles Kings’ goaltending, Martin Jones, while he may not be playing first fiddle, his music is distinctive enough to make a difference – and with that, all is well with the Los Angeles Kings and their Kingdom.