Earlier, I offered some grades for the Blackhawks’ forwards after an ugly month of November. It was a tough month for the entire roster, and injuries had an impact all over the roster.
The biggest impact of any injury thus far came on the blue line, where Seth Jones missed the bulk of November with a broken thumb. That forced every other defenseman out of his ideal role. When I handed out grades at the end of October, as was the case up front, there were a lot of As and Bs. That isn’t the case one month later.
So assessing the play of the defensemen isn’t an easy task. But let’s discuss how the defensemen and goaltenders did perform in November. Because there were so many missed games in the month, I’m going to list the defensemen by the number of games played in November; only three appeared in all 13 games.
Jake McCabe — C-
McCabe appeared in all 13 games and was the only player on the roster with a positive on-ice even strength goal differential; he was plus-one. He led the team with 34 blocked shots and was credited with 23 hits. I don’t think when he signed with the Blackhawks before last season that he imagined he would be skating on a third pair with either a youngster or Caleb Jones, but here we are.
Connor Murphy — C+
Murphy was second among Hawks defensemen with 29 hits and was credited with 22 blocked shots. It was good to see him able to skate in all 13 games in the month. He averaged three seconds under 20 minutes per game and has been a steady leader on the back end. Murphy was asked to contribute to both special teams units.
Jack Johnson — C+
Johnson not only skated in all 13 games, but his 20:42 average ice time led Blackhawks defensemen not-named Seth Jones. Did Jack envision himself skating on the Blackhawks’ top pair when he signed a one-year deal this past summer? Probably not. He’s shown flashes of his terrific compete and has been a steady influence on a blue line that has been in flux most of the year.
Caleb Jones — F
In 12 games, Caleb had the worst on-ice even strength goals against (minus-nine) among all of the Blackhawks’ defensemen.
Jarred Tinordi — C+
Tinordi was claimed off waivers and jumped into the lineup almost every night and has established himself fairly well. Unfortunately, a hip issue has sidelined him at the end of the month. He led the Blackhawks with 45 hits in November and was also credited with 20 blocked shots in 11 appearances. Getting him for nothing was a nice pick-up for a team that doesn’t want to rush young defensemen to the NHL level.
Filip Roos — C-
Roos appeared in seven of the 13 games in November. He’s still a rookie and is still learning, and that role hasn’t been easy with so many players in and out of the lineup. Murphy said he likes Roos’ swagger on the ice, which is a good thing. His game would probably benefit from more consistent ice time with a partner. He isn’t blowing me away with his play but isn’t expected to be a key guy in this lineup.
Seth Jones — D-
He appeared in only four games, but his on-ice even strength goal differential was minus-seven; only his brother was worse, and Caleb appeared in eight more games. The thumb injury is clearly an issue, but the Blackhawks desperately need him to be better defensively if they’re going to win games.
- Alec Regula (three) and Ian Mitchell (two) also skated in games in November because of the number of injuries. They both saw time on special teams but didn’t make a significant impact. They’re both in Rockford and will have to wait for additional injuries and/or trades to get another shot at the NHL. Mitchell will get the first crack at the lineup; he was recalled on Thursday and Tinordi was placed on IR.
Arvid Söderblom — C
Söderblom picked up both of the Blackhawks’ wins in November. He also appeared in eight of the 13 games (seven starts), a somewhat unexpected total given the Blackhawks signing two veterans to begin the year. But injuries to both Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock — which I mentioned as a highly likely scenario in my season predictions — opened the door for him to get some run. He posted a .904 save percentage and 3.14 goals against average in the month. Considering everything we’ve already discussed with the struggles of Chicago’s defensemen, that isn’t awful.
Petr Mrazek — F
Mrazek started five games in the month, posting an 0-4-1 record with an .880 save percentage and 4.54 goals against average. When the Blackhawks decided their goaltending tandem would be Mrazek and Stalock at the NHL level, I labeled them “tank insurance” and that has proven to be accurate thus far.
- Alex Stalock skated 2:56 in the month before he had to leave the Islanders game. He’s been in concussion protocol since.