Blackhawks’ Seth, Caleb Jones building even more chemistry as first-pairing partners
The brothers have been paired together since late February and have played well. A play Thursday against the Predators exemplified how they use their skating abilities to their advantage.
TEMPE, Ariz. — In their first year and a half together on the Blackhawks, brothers Seth Jones and Caleb Jones hadn’t spent much time together as defensive partners.
But that all changed when Jake McCabe was traded.
Since late February, they have operated as the Hawks’ first pair and enjoyed success.
“We knew it would happen [eventually],” Seth said. “I don’t think it was planned, but obviously trades happen, things like that. We played a couple of shifts together [in the past], but it’s nice to get a stretch to get the chemistry to develop.”
Added Caleb: “It has been fun. He’s obviously a really good defenseman. He makes the game easy for everyone he plays with. We’re reading off each other and developing chemistry.”
They entered the 4-2 loss Saturday against the Coyotes with a solid 50.8% expected-goals ratio during 190 minutes together at five-on-five this season. The Hawks had outscored opponents 9-7 during those minutes.
Coach Luke Richardson pointed to a play they made on their first shift of the third period Thursday against the Predators as an example of working well together.
The Predators attempted a defensive-zone breakout, but Seth slashed across the ice to jar the puck loose from Matt Duchene at the blue line while Caleb backed him up. From the overhead-camera angle, Richardson saw the Predators had nowhere to go. The Hawks quickly turned the puck in the other direction and generated a scoring chance.
“It’s a really good play because you can surprise the forward coming from that side,” Caleb said. “I’ve done it a few times. He does the same thing where he’ll just fall underneath. . . . You have to make sure you’re not going to get beat by the guy. You have to be able to skate well.”
Moments like that demonstrate their increased comfort level with each other. Despite their blood relation, some things can only be learned from time in games together.
“I saw them talking [Friday] on the ice before practice just about subtle little things,” Richardson said. “[Seth] said, ‘Oh, yeah, I knew you were there; you were going here.’
“They obviously have a bond, tighter than most people would, but it’s starting to show in their game. They enjoy it. Why wouldn’t you enjoy it? That would be a fun thing. Not too many families have the opportunity to play in the top league in the world together.”
With Jonathan Toews absent and Patrick Kane gone, Seth has become the Hawks’ participant in all ceremonial puck drops — a duty typically performed by the captain.
On the road, it’s more of a chore than anything. The occasions rarely have any significance to Jones or the Hawks.
In Anaheim on Feb. 27, Jones was part of the Ducks’ “Angels Night” theme, with former Angels pitchers Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott dropping the puck. In Tampa last weekend, he met former Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber, who dropped the puck to honor his Hall of Fame selection. And on Saturday, Jones represented the Hawks in a pregame ceremony recognizing a Coyotes fashion-line designer.
Team representatives let him know in advance. He gave a slight eye roll Friday when informed about Saturday’s plan. But he insisted the fake faceoffs don’t interrupt his pregame routine.
“You don’t win the draw if you’re away, so you let the home guy win,” he said. “[Then you] shake the hands, [and it’s] game on.”