Blackhawks defenseman Jones still looking for his first goal of the season

The goose egg under Seth Jones' goal total is beginning to bother the Blackhawks' defenseman.

A lot.

Heading into the Hawks' home game against Anaheim on Thursday, Jones had yet to put any of his 53 shots on goal into the back of the net.

And that didn't change after the Hawks' 1-0 victory despite Jones firing away two more times. Philipp Kurashev scored a second-period power-play goal, and Petr Mrazek made 37 saves as the Hawks snapped a four-game losing streak. Mrazek notched his first shutout since April 4, 2021, when he was with Carolina.

Jones' $9.5 million cap hit is tied for fourth highest among D-men. He is the only one in the top 10 without a goal; the others averaged 4.4 through Wednesday.

It's easy to say Jones should simply shoot more often, but it's not that simple.

First of all, he's averaging 5.32 total shot attempts per game and 2.2 shots on goal (total shot attempts include those that miss the net and are blocked). Those numbers were 4.63 and 2.48 during Jones' first two seasons in Chicago.

"That's the frustrating part - everybody's saying shoot more, but the numbers are pretty similar to when I was scoring 15, 16," said Jones, who had 12 goals last season and a career high 16 in 2017-18 with Columbus. "So (it's about) capitalizing on the chances.

"You get one or two a game right now. It's not like there's a plethora of them coming your way, so I've got to find a way to be opportunistic when it comes to those slot shots."

Jones is spot on when it comes to the Hawks generating quality scoring chances as they rarely keep the puck in the offensive zone for more than 15 seconds. They are turning the puck over at an alarming rate, mainly due to careless or off-the-mark passes.

Since Nov. 1, the Hawks are worst in the league with 11.08 giveaways per 60 minutes. That number balloons to 14.25 since Thanksgiving, with truly ugly performances against Toronto, St. Louis, Seattle and Nashville in which they were charged with 20 or more.

The Hawks played a much cleaner game Thursday, giving the puck away just 10 times.

Jones also points out that the Hawks aren't a big "rush team," so he's often not in position deep in the O-zone to rip home easy goals.

Asked about the drought after Wednesday's practice, coach Luke Richardson said Jones is actually trying to do too much on occasion.

"Hopefully it registers that maybe sometimes pushing too much up the ice creates more problems defensively for us," Richardson said. "His position is playing defense, and if he's caught up the ice too much, it's not really helping."

Richardson is also cognizant of how much the coaching staff asks of Jones. Not only is the 29-year-old is often tasked with shutting down the opponents' top forwards, he's also on the power play and penalty kill, and he's almost always on the ice for defensive-zone draws.

"It's taxing," Richardson said. "Every time I show clips of our D-zone of hitting and pinning when we do it well and we do it quick, it's usually him. ...

"So after (a full game) of up and down the ice, power play, penalty kill, and trying to play physical, it's a lot. We just have to play better as a team and that will lessen his load."

Still, let's not let Jones - or the entire D corps for that matter - off the hook. Hawks blue liners have a mere 3 goals, a sickening total that ranks 31st in the league. Most teams have at least 8 goals from the defensemen, with Colorado (21), Montreal (20) and Carolina (17) leading the way.

Jones would like to see Hawks forwards take away the eyes of the goaltenders so shots from the blue line have a better chance of hitting their mark.

"Net front's important," he said. "I'm not putting all on that. The 'D' has a whole need to shoot more; we need to score more and help the offense.

"But net-front presence is a big deal when it comes to that."

The Hawks (8-16-1) close out their four-game home stand against St. Louis on Saturday and Washington on Sunday.

Anaheim (10-16-0) lost for the 10th time in 11 games.

Chicago Blackhawks' Seth Jones plays against the Columbus Blue Jackets during an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

By the numbers

<b>Stats for 10 highest paid defensemen</b>Name, team Cap hit G A Pts.

1. Erik Karlsson, Pittsburgh $11.5M 6 13 19

2. Drew Doughty, L.A. $11.0M 6 6 12

3. Zach Werenski, Columbus $9.583M 1 18 19

4. Charlie McAvoy, Boston $9.5M 3 14 17

4. Seth Jones, HAWKS $9.5M 0 10 10

4. Adam Fox, NY Rangers $9.5M 3 13 16

7. Darnell Nurse, Edmonton $9.25M 4 5 9

8. Roman Josi, Nashville $9.059M 5 13 18

9. Cale Makar, Colorado $9.0M 7 27 34

10. Dougie Hamilton $9.0M 5 11 16

(Through Wednesday)

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