Blackhawks grounded by Jets again as losing ways continue
The Hawks’ 3-1 loss Friday represented their 17th in their last 20 games overall and their 14th in their last 17 meetings against Winnipeg.
Few teams have consistently dominated the Blackhawks in recent years like the Jets have. That trend didn’t change Friday, as the Jets controlled the majority of the game and Hawks goalie Arvid Soder-blom could only do so much in a 3-1 loss at the United Center.
It was the Hawks’ 14th loss in their last 17 games with the Jets and third loss in three meetings this season, during which they’ve been outscored 14-3. They’ve now lost 17 of their last 20 games overall.
The Jets’ 7-2 rout at the United Center a couple of weeks ago was the first time this season the Hawks have “played a little bit apart as a team,” coach Luke Richardson said before the game. They didn’t crumble to that degree Friday, but they still offered little reason to believe in a comeback after falling behind 1-0 in the first period.
Soderblom made “backdoor saves left and right,” as defenseman Seth Jones described it, but his 29 saves were meaningless with the Hawks scoring just one goal in the second period — their only goal in a three-game span. The Jets finished with a 38-21 edge in scoring chances and 18-6 in high-danger chances.
“It wasn’t all bad — we came out slow in the first, though,” Jones said. “We weren’t very physical. Weren’t forechecking very much. And they took it to us a little bit. In the second period, we started to get more [offensive] zone time [by] moving our feet.”
Last man back
Forward Tyler Johnson, the only injured Hawk who wasn’t part of an en masse return to practice Thursday, nonetheless continued the stretch of encouraging health news when he participated in the morning skate Friday. It was his first on-ice appearance since a setback in his ankle recovery around Nov. 20.
“He’s kind of back to where he was close [to returning] last time, but he has to try the contact again, which is the hard part,” Richardson said. “[With] the ankle, you never know when you’re going to get hit and you have to flex it. That’s what hurt him last time and set him back, so we have to try it again.”
Sam Lafferty’s return Friday from a back injury slightly bolstered the forward lineup; Lafferty slotted in as the fourth-line center, bumping Boris Katchouk to a healthy scratch.
Johnson’s return would bolster the lineup significantly more. He was the Hawks’ leading scorer, with six points in six games, at the time of his injury.
On the defensive side, Jarred Tinordi (hip injury) also unexpectedly returned to the lineup, then missed more time in-game but ultimately returned.
McCabe being heard
Defenseman Jake McCabe has played well recently, pressuring the puck in the defensive zone and getting involved in the offensive zone. But Richardson values McCabe’s talkativeness more than his physical skills.
“He’s vocal,” Richardson said Thursday. “The game has gotten quiet. [This is] just a generation of players where they’re not vocal as much as they used to be — and he is. So that’s a real help on the ice. I love how he competes and he doesn’t settle for anything but the best. When things aren’t going well, he’ll let everybody know . . . it’s not acceptable.”
Richardson paired McCabe with Ian Mitchell against the Jets, believing McCabe’s strong communication would help Mitchell to build chemistry with him quickly.
“You get to not just see what [McCabe is] doing, but [also] hear what he’s doing,” Richardson said. “And that lets you decide quicker what you . . . need to do in the D-zone.”