Blackhawks dismantled by Blues as Connor Murphy-Caleb Jones pairing struggles
But Murphy and Jones’ defensive woes were mostly a product of a simple fact: The Blues are a much better team than the Hawks.
Connor Murphy and Caleb Jones played poorly Sunday.
There’s no other way to describe their performance in the Blackhawks’ ugly 4-0 loss to the Blues, which quickly brought fans back to reality after their electric victory Friday.
In just under 12 minutes together at even strength, the Murphy-Jones pairing was outshot 8-4 and had an expected-goals ratio of 10.9% — a terrible number. All three of the Blues’ even-strength goals happened with them on the ice, and Jones committed the penalty that led to the Blues’ power-play goal.
But interim coach Derek King made a good point after the loss: Whenever any team — good or bad — plays any game, a few of their players inevitably won’t play well.
When the team can collectively carry the load, those poor individual performances are quickly forgiven and forgotten. But when the team can’t, those struggles are amplified.
“You’re allowed to have a bad game in this league,” King said. “But we can’t afford to have three-quarters of our team have their off night at the same time. We don’t have that luxury.
“Usually your good hockey teams will have one or two guys maybe just not having a great night. But they’re protected, right? You don’t really notice it that bad. The team still wins and they’re coming in the locker room, and everybody’s happy, so nobody talks about the two guys that had the bad game.
‘‘But for us, it’s three-quarters of us that have bad games, and this is the mood now. We’re all, ‘Where did it go wrong? What do we have to do to correct that?’ ’’
That’s not meant to excuse the mistakes made by Murphy and Jones, which were egregious at times.
The Blues broke a scoreless tie early in the second period when Ivan Barbashev gloved down a clearing attempt by Murphy, then poked the puck past him to Jordan Kyrou, who made Jones look silly by executing a give-and-go with Brayden Schenn for the tap-in goal.
Minutes later, after Henrik Borgstrom won a defensive-zone faceoff, Murphy and Jones went behind the net to retrieve the puck, but somehow neither did, leaving Pavel Buchnevich wide open in front to double the lead.
“Their communication was off a little bit,” King said. “Everybody was off today. We were fumbling pucks, especially in the second period.
‘‘But [the Blues] cause it because they come hard, they forecheck hard. That play was just a miscommunication. For the most part, those guys will make that play.”
And there’s plenty of blame to go around outside of that duo.
The offense sputtered and lost confidence after Blues goalie Jordan Binnington stopped several good chances in the first period, producing little the rest of the way. The Hawks were shut out for the sixth time and finished the four-game season -series against St. Louis having mustered only four goals.
“Sometimes it feels like you get these chances, and they just aren’t going in,” Dylan Strome said. “We got down and couldn’t fight back in it. [It was] disappointing, obviously.”
Borgstrom, whose underwhelming first season with the Hawks has been a lesson in invisibility, had a 19.8% expected-goals ratio. Dominik Kubalik, who has been almost as big a disappointment in his third season, posted a 33.6% expected-goals ratio.
Cherry-picking stats like that can be done after every game, though, and it seems almost pointless at this stage.
The bigger issue, one that became clear months ago, is that the Hawks are poorly constructed and lack depth. They’re simply a far worse team than the Blues.
The Blues should have won, and they did win. There’s only so much finger-pointing you can do after such a predictable result.