COLUMBUS, Ohio – The return of Blackhawks defender Seth Jones literally did not pass the test.
Jones was pulled from the ice during the morning skating Tuesday and was later added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, preventing him from returning to the city he forced a trade from last year. Jake McCabe, Jones’ top-pair defensive partner recently, was also put on the COVID protocol.
In their place, the Hawks’ clumsy defensive lineup came together to produce one of the better performances of the season, securing a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.
” We had to go back, stop in [defensive] zone, help our ‘D’ out, support them, steer the puck through the neutral zone and go to work in the offensive zone, ” said interim coach Derek King. ” For the most part, we did a good job. ”
The Hawks will return home happy with the result of their road trip – they ended up 2-1-0 despite an unforgivable loss to the Coyotes – but nervous about the spread of COVID, where five players and two employees have contracted the virus.
Brandon Hagel, Erik Gustafsson and Sam Lafferty have now spent five days on the protocol, but coach Mike Gapski and equipment manager Troy Parchman were added on Tuesday with Jones and McCabe.
” You never know from day to day, ” King said before the match. ” It can spread through us; it could not be. Whatever it is, we’re just dealing with it. If guys go down with it, then so be it. We’re just sticking guys in where they need to be. ”
King did it – with seamless results. Most notably, the Hawks could have discovered a hidden gem in Jakub Galvas, who essentially inherited Jones’ role in his first NHL game of his career and thrived in it.
The 22-year-old rookie, who had already impressed the Hawks’ management during training camp, masterfully handled a massive 23-minute and 40-second workload. Not since Duncan Keith in 2005 had a Hawk played that much in his NHL debut.
Galvas quarterbacked the Hawks’ best power-play unit, while also leading them in shot-try ratios (65%) and expected goal ratios (77%) with consistent strength.
” I have to be honest, I was very surprised at how well he played, ” King said. ” I knew he was pretty calm with the puck and could skate and play and he’s a smart player. But he looked really good today. He stepped up. It’s not easy.”
” He looked really comfortable with the puck, ” defender Connor Murphy said. ”[With] some of those breakouts and points games he fit right in. The key to missing two top players for us is guys who come in and are comfortable and do their thing. ”
The other defenders made their own impact. Calvin de Haan, after getting an X-ray on his hand during a break, scored his first goal of the season and broke a 1-1 draw in the second period. Murphy scored the Hawks’ third goal. And Riley Stillman continued his recent run of good play with a misleading slap pass to put Alex DeBrincat’s first goal and an assist on DeBrincat’s game-sealed empty net.
”[Those were] some good plays by him [with] really good eyesight, ” said DeBrincat. ” He’s a guy that a lot of people do not notice on our team, but he’s a workhorse. He really helps us win a lot of fights. ”
The Hawks barely clicked offensively. They finished with just 33 shot attempts, a draw as their second-longest in 11 years, and 20 shots on goal. The jackets had 50 and 26, respectively.
But given the short-lived circumstances, their efforts were something the Hawks can be proud of and build on.
” That was what we needed: We needed everyone, ” DeBrincat said. ” They really brought it to us tonight. ”