Defenseman Seth Jones’ absence finally catches up to Blackhawks in loss to Kraken

Jones tested out of COVID-19 protocols Monday but missed his fourth straight game, and the Hawks’ undermanned defense cracked without its biggest minutes-eater in a 3-2 shootout loss.

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The Kraken surged in the third period and beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

SEATTLE — For three games, Seth Jones’ absence didn’t seem to hurt the Blackhawks nearly as much as expected.

On Monday, however, it did.

The defense was worn down gradually by the Kraken to the point of exhaustion, and Marc-Andre Fleury’s constant heroics in goal eventually proved unable to save them. The 3-2 shootout loss ended their four-game winning streak, as well as the Kraken’s nine-game losing streak.

“We were sloppy,” interim coach Derek King said. “We had moments where we looked good, but then there were moments where we were tired. The travel was a little bit crazy for us. We’ll have to get these guys plenty of rest.”

The Hawks’ January schedule has been relatively forgiving so far in terms of quality of competition. Monday marked their fourth consecutive game — and fifth in their last six — against opponents currently in, or who finished last season in, the bottom four of the NHL.

But in terms of travel, with nine games (across all four time zones) over the last 17 days, it has been intense. 

It’s plausible the Hawks might have started looking ahead late Monday, in between huffed breaths, to their three-day break that begins Tuesday. During the third period and overtime combined, the Kraken dominated shots on goal (19-6), scoring chances (23-7) and high-danger scoring chances (12-0).

“We’ve got guys coming off of COVID, or you’re playing a lot, you travel, you’re back and forth [on a] four-hour flight,” King said. “It catches up to you.”

Seth Jones finally tested out of protocol Monday in Chicago, King said. He should be ready to play Friday against the Wild.

Jake McCabe, who initially tested positive for COVID the same day as Jones but never developed symptoms and tested out quicker, was able to return Monday. However, he looked somewhat “off” — in  King’s words — during his 19:09 of ice time. 

He produced some good shifts, such as one in which he broke up a developing chance and then delivered a big hit to help exit the zone. He also endured some bad shifts, such as one in which Ryan Donato blew past him in the neutral zone and scored on the rush to tie the game 2-2.

“They took over the game in the third,” McCabe said. “That second [Kraken] goal was a tough one for me personally to swallow. I got stuck in no man’s land. [I was] just a little rusty here and there on some plays, but overall not too bad.”

King oddly elected to remove upward-trending rookie Jakub -Galvas from the lineup to fit McCabe, keeping in Caleb Jones.

That decision backfired. Jones struggled mightily, finishing with a 12.5% even-strength scoring-chance ratio (one for, seven against) in addition to numerous turnovers and a third-period penalty. 

King first excused Jones’ poor performance as a result of his frequent bouncing in and out of the lineup. That didn’t exactly check out because Jones played four -consecutive games during his brother’s absence. King later -acknowledged that fact. 

“He’s got to take advantage when we have some ‘D’ that are not healthy and he gets a chance to play,” he said.

That is one benefit from the Hawks’ four games without Seth Jones: They were able to see which defensemen could handle bigger roles when needed. 

Galvas, who produced a 52.0% scoring-chance ratio (and saved a goal Saturday) while averaging over 20 minutes in his three games, showed he could. So did Riley -Stillman, who has diversified and improved his game noticeably since last spring.

Caleb Jones, conversely, fell -completely flat. Ian Mitchell did very little against the Blue Jackets in the first game of the four and never received another opportunity. Nicolas Beaudin was tellingly never used at all.

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