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Blackhawks D Seth Jones' uptick in offensive production the result of a mentality change

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Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones was not happy about the first half of his season. He had zero goals in his first 30 games a year after potting 12, which was his highest total since the 2017-18 campaign.

"It's embarrassing," Jones said of his first half.

In December, Jones sustained a shoulder injury to his SC joint that kept him out of the lineup for almost five weeks. It allowed him to reset, and it has shown.

In the 27 games before the injury, Jones had 60 shots in 27 games for an average of 2.22 shots per game. Since returning to the lineup, he has 93 shots in 30 games for an average of 3.10. He's definitely made a conscious effort to shoot more.

"[Zero] goals wasn't enough, right?' Jones said. "I wanted to at least give myself a chance to score instead of passing and try to look for the open man every time."

All seven of his goals this season have come post-injury.

"I think I've just changed the mentality of how I'm playing," Jones said. "To see the puck go in and just giving myself a chance to score at the end of the day, whether it's our guys screening or their guy might be screening and it goes in, a couple of them have been that way too, so not really changing the way — I think I've been a couple games the last few weeks where I've had five shots and eight missed shots, so it just kind of depends. But at least I know I have that mentality."

Perhaps it's no coincidence the Blackhawks have had a significant uptick in power-play success over the last few weeks, in part because of Jones' shooting mentality.

"I've been doing it on the power play a lot more just trying to shoot from the middle," Jones said. "Sometimes I miss the net, sometimes it doesn't work out but I think teams have to respect that and not just passing to the flanks every time, so hopefully PK's can start to play that a little differently and open things up for us. 

"5-on-5 is the same thing. If I'm on the rush taking shots, sometimes it's not really about trying to score every time but just getting pucks to the net and creating rebounds and certain things for your teammates."

Jones has had a particularly strong March, where he has six goals and five assists for 11 points in 12 games. Two of those five goals have been game-winners, including one in overtime.

"Seth’s been criticized a lot for not shooting the puck where I think we haven’t been as accurate on our passing on our power play earlier in the season, which we could all agree on," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said after Tuesday's 3-1 win over Calgary. "That hesitates the D because the puck’s rolling or wobbling or it’s not in the wheelhouse, you've got to stop and then your lane’s gone and then the whole building’s like, ‘oh,’ because he didn’t shoot it.

"Well, tonight it was bang-bang, on the tape, in the wheelhouse with a net-front screen. So that was the right time to shoot it. And he’s scored a few goals lately, so I think his confidence is high.

"All the accumulation of all of that is letting him do this and I think his 5-on-5 play has really been bumped up as well because he’s not worried about producing offense. It’s just happening when it happens and he’s really killing plays defensively, playing really hard in the D-zone so really a good, complete game from him right now."

Not only is Jones benefitting from the change in mentality, but so are the Blackhawks. Jones joked that he and some of his teammates are trying to learn from Connor Bedard, who has also seen a spike in shot attempts over the last month or so.

"I'm trying to kind of take after [him]," Jones said. "I think a lot of guys can take a page out of his book when it comes to that. He crosses the blue line — obviously he's got one of the best shots in the league already — so when he shoots the puck from inside the blue line, you always think it's going in or has a chance to.

"But I think you can take a page out of his book, especially early in games we've struggled getting shots to the net early in games sometimes. He comes over the blue line and he fires it a lot, so we kind of all took a page out of his playbook with that and I think it's helped us a little bit."

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