Blackhawks’ undermanned defense steps up, secures victory against Blue Jackets
Jakub Galvas sparkled in his NHL debut and Connor Murphy and Calvin de Haan scored in the Hawks’ 4-2 win — an impressive feat with Seth Jones and Jake McCabe in the COVID-19 protocol.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones’ homecoming literally didn’t pass the test.
Jones was pulled from the ice during the morning skate Tuesday and later was added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, preventing him from making a return to the city he forced a trade from last year. Jake McCabe, Jones’ top-pair defensive partner of late, also was put in the COVID protocol.
In their stead, the Hawks’ ragtag defensive lineup rallied together to produce one of their better performances of the season, securing a 4-2 victory against the Blue Jackets.
‘‘We had to get back, stop in the [defensive] zone, help our ‘D’ out, support them, manage the puck through the neutral zone and go to work in the offensive zone,’’ interim coach Derek King said. ‘‘For the most part, we did a good job.’’
The Hawks will return home pleased with the outcome of their road trip — they finished it 2-1-0, despite an inexcusable loss to the Coyotes — but nervous about COVID spread, with five players and two staff members having contracted the virus.
Brandon Hagel, Erik Gustafsson and Sam Lafferty now have spent five days in the protocol, but trainer Mike Gapski and equipment manager Troy Parchman were added Tuesday with Jones and McCabe.
‘‘You never know day-to-day,’’ King said before the game. ‘‘It could be spreading through us; it could not be. Whatever it is, we just deal with it. If guys go down with it, so be it. We’ll just plunk guys in there where they need to be.’’
King did that — with seamless results. Most notably, the Hawks might have discovered a hidden gem in Jakub Galvas, who essentially inherited Jones’ role in his first career NHL game and thrived in it.
The 22-year-old rookie, who already had impressed Hawks management during training camp, masterfully handled a massive 23-minute, 40-second workload. Not since Duncan Keith in 2005 had a Hawk played that much in his NHL debut.
Galvas quarterbacked the Hawks’ top power-play unit while also leading them in shot-attempt ratio (65%) and expected-goals ratio (77%) at even strength.
‘‘I’ll be honest, I was very surprised how good he played,’’ King said. ‘‘I knew he was pretty calm with the puck and could skate and make plays, and he’s a smart player. But he looked really good today. He stepped up. That’s not easy.’’
‘‘He looked really comfortable with the puck,’’ defenseman Connor Murphy said. ‘‘[With] some of those breakouts and point play, he fit right in. The key to missing two top players for us is guys coming in and being comfortable and doing their thing.’’
The other defensemen made their own impact. Calvin de Haan, after getting an X-ray on his hand during an intermission, scored his first goal of the season, breaking a 1-1 tie in the second period. Murphy scored the Hawks’ third goal. And Riley Stillman continued his recent run of good games with a deceptive slap-pass to set up Alex DeBrincat’s first goal and an assist on DeBrincat’s game-sealing empty-netter.
‘‘[Those were] some great plays by him [with] really good vision,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘That’s a guy who a lot of people don’t notice on our team, but he’s a workhorse. He really helps us win a lot of games.’’
The Hawks were hardly clicking offensively. They finished with only 33 shot attempts, tied for their second-fewest in 11 years, and 20 shots on goal. The Jackets had 50 and 26, respectively.
But considering the short-handed circumstances, the Hawks’ effort was something they can take pride in and build on.
‘‘That’s what we needed: We needed everybody,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘They really brought it for us tonight.’’