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San Jose’s Martin Jones makes a save during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals at in Pittsburgh on Monday. San Jose lost 3-2.Bruce Bennett

Martin Jones has been here before. The last time, though, he had a different vantage point.

Two years ago as a backup with the Los Angeles Kings, Jones sat on the bench during the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and watched Jonathan Quick and the Kings win. So Jones has his name on the Cup – he's the only current member of the San Jose Sharks who does.

This time, Jones is the starter, the backstop in San Jose's first-ever trip to the final.

For the team, led by veterans such as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, the final is the near-culmination of a long road. And since goaltending is key to any team's Cup ambitions, the Sharks' hopes ride on the relatively inexperienced Jones. The 26-year-old from North Vancouver went undrafted as an 18-year-old. This season was, eight years later, his first as an NHL starter.

From when he was first drawn to the crease at age nine, Jones has been a winner.

But he also was doubted each step of the way. Last summer, he landed in San Jose with a talented team that had struggled in the postseason for several years.

A lanky 6-foot-4, Jones plays a disciplined and technical style – the prototype of a modern NHL netminder.

Having made it through three playoff rounds, he's now in position to become only the third undrafted goalie who has helped lead a team to a Stanley Cup victory, joining Ed Belfour (Dallas in 1999) and Antti Niemi (Chicago, 2010).

Monday night's 3-2 loss in Game 1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, in which Jones faced a barrage of 41 shots on net, was his 120th NHL game, regular season and playoffs.

The number is big only in comparison with Pittsburgh's 22-year-old playoff starter, Matt Murray, who was playing in his 29th NHL game.

Despite his inexperience, Jones brings a veteran presence, say his coach and teammates. "He looks so calm in there," Thornton said after the Sharks won the Western Conference final over St. Louis. "I love that."

"Composure," added Sharks coach Peter DeBoer before the conference-clinching win. "You wouldn't know after a game or the next day whether he got shelled or pulled or whether he won 3-0 against L.A., his old team."

Those sentiments echo the longstanding book on Jones.

"When you watched him play, you literally wouldn't know if he had a shutout or had let in four," said Billy Coupland, Jones's youth coach on a talented North Shore Winter Club team in North Vancouver. Coupland remembered Jones at the age of 13, playing in front of thousands at Quebec City's International Pee-wee Tournament. The North Shore team won its division. "It was like he was back home playing in front of friends and family," Coupland said

As a teenager, Jones worked individually and at camps with Ian Clark, then goalie coach for the Vancouver Canucks. Jones had an intellectual rigour and a strong work ethic, Clark said.

"His technique was always impeccable," said Clark, who now works with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In 2008, Jones's draft year, he played for the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League as a backup behind a 20-year-old starter. His name wasn't called on draft day. "He was disappointed," said Harvey Jones, Martin's father. "But he doesn't let things like that knock him. He wouldn't accept failure."

Jones scored an entry-level NHL contract on a 2008 tryout with the Kings, then returned to the WHL and eventually led the Hitmen to the Memorial Cup in 2010. In December, 2013, in his first NHL shot after three seasons in the American Hockey League, Jones was an immediate ace. He won his first eight games with the Kings – tying a record – and ceded just eight goals. But L.A. already had a No. 1 goalie in Quick.

The two play distinct styles, but Jones closely observed Quick during that 2014 Cup run, learning how to cope with the rigours of the two-month tournament.

"He competes on everything," Jones said of Quick after practice on Tuesday. "That's the biggest thing."

In San Jose, Jones has provided dependable goaltending for a team that needed it, but he also benefits from playing behind a top defence. The Sharks allowed the fewest shots on goal in the regular season, at even strength, and have done so again in the playoffs.

Jones has evolved, too. Clark has watched Jones add sparks to a game rooted in technical acumen.

"The instinctive ability to break from his structure to make an important save," Clark said. "Those attributes are absolutely vital to a goaltender as [he works] from being a very good goalie to becoming an elite goalie."

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