We've become so damn spoiled, haven't we?
After 15 games, the Chicago Blackhawks sit quietly at 8-6-1. It's a far cry from the 48-28-6 dominance from last year's Stanley Cup winning squad, and it's a bit off from the 130-56-26 record of the previous three seasons.
So, where does the hand-wringing start for a team currently sitting in the sixth place?
Instead of lobbing the tired narrative of how the team struggled during the Patrick Kane accusations, or how the team is having a typical post-Cup victory letdown, let's look at the in-depth statistics that will help tell the story.
Before surging into the new world of hockey analytics, it may be of help for some basic understanding on the statistics.
It all starts with 'Fenwick'. Fenwick is a statistic that takes into account not just shots on goal, but adds on any shots that hit the post, flew just wide of the net, etc. For instance, let's say Patrick Kane took seven shots in a game, but two hit the post. On the score sheet the next day, it may show that Kane only had seven shots on goal, but Fenwick will show a total of '9' for Kane.
Fenwick is the precursor of another statistic called Corsi that we will evaluate. Corsi is the player's Fenwick score plus any other shots that were blocked during the game by a defender. So, let's keep with Kane's Fenwick score of '9' from the previous game. If he shoots three times during the game, and it hits a defender in the shin, then his total Corsi for the game would be 12.
However, most analytic sites don't show Corsi as a round figure like '12'. They take the number and see what the number is over 60 minutes. Moreover, they will look at what the true numbers were during 5-on-5 hockey (not on the power-play, penalty kill, etc.).
Our basic evaluations for the 2015-2016 Chicago Blackhawks will look at how players are performing in regards to their CF%. This is their 'Corsi For' measured against their 'Corsi Against'. It's basically stating how are you doing on the ice versus your opponent.
Why am I looking at this particular statistic versus other available statistics? Shots are a good way of seeing who leads in puck possession (You need the puck to shoot it). Teams with the highest Corsi usually perform the best; the more you have the puck, the better chance you have to win (NO WAY!).
EVALUATING WHO THE HAWKS WANT TO BE:
If you look over the past couple of seasons, you'll notice the Blackhawks have a fairly high Corsi rating. This means, they put the puck towards the net more than most teams in the NHL. This forces defenders to play 'against the shot' more than 'against the man'. As any defender knows, once you're defending against the shot (taking away shooting lanes, etc.) you risk losing your man. The Blackhawks, being a team of skaters, enjoy defenders thinking that they'll be peppering the opposing team's net. This keeps defenders on their tips, and helps the Hawks skate around the opposing end to set up scoring opportunities.
Looking at the previous years, you'll notice something odd with the Hawks. They have a high Corsi, but a low shooting percentage. The philosophy is that more pucks towards the net creates more chances. With the Hawks being a team filled with skilled offensive players, the Hawks prefer a higher shot total that produces rebounds, and gives skilled players opportunities for easy goals.
EVALUATING WHO THE HAWKS ARE:
The Blackhawks are still 5th in Corsi in 2015-16. Where the team struggles is in plain 5-on-5 scoring. The Hawks are 25th in goals per game for 5 on 5 play over 60 minutes, and are 21st defensively via the same standard. In previous years, the low shooting percentage would not have as massive of an effect, but when you're goalie play struggles...the Hawks are left with nowhere to run. The Hawks are dropped from 2nd in save percentage in 2015 to 16th after these first 15 contests.
The Hawks are also struggling with defensive zone face-offs. This is leading to more scoring opportunities on the other end. The Blackhawks are 24th in defensive zone face-off percentage.
Which players are the biggest culprits for giving up puck possession? For players who average more than 8 min of ice time per game, Andrew Shaw sits at an anemic 46.8 for his CF%. Andrew Desjardins and Marcus Kruger are also struggling on the offensive side. The two biggest defensive culprits for CF%? Brent Seabrook and Viktor Svedberg.
THE DUNCAN KEITH EFFECT:
It is impossible to look at the Blackhawks slow start without taking into consideration the injury to Duncan Keith. Keith has been one of the best defenders in the league for the past 6-7 seasons. Keith's absence has forced each defenseman to forge new on-ice partners and has put more stress on the veteran Seabrook. It's impossible to look at Seabrook's stats without taking that into consideration. Every defenseman has had to step up in his absence, and then impact can be seen on their stats. Without a doubt, the Hawks will be boosted by his return.
WHAT WILL CARRY ON:
Patrick Kane has been magnificent. You really don't need any inside information on that. Kane leads the team in goals and assists. Artemi Panarin has already proved to be a special player. Panarin is a wizard with the puck, and is already making other teams take notice on the ice. van Risemsdyk will continue to look more comfortable on the ice. Marcus Kruger will score...we think...we...dear God, please. Tikhonov will have to wake up. Corey Crawford should improve from his listing at #18 in save percentage. The Blackhawks, further removed from the summer madness, will get back into the swing of things.
WHAT IS REASONABLE TO WORRY ABOUT:
The Blackhawks division. The division looks to be a buzzsaw in 2016. The St. Louis Blues are still one of the top teams in the land, Dallas has evolved into a solid club, and Minnesota/Nashville are still well-coached teams.
Plus, Corey Crawford. Goalies are not machines. Look through the history of each goalie's career not named Dryden, Roy, or Sawchuk. Every goalie has an off year, an overworked year, etc. The Hawks need Darling to play up to speed.
ARE THESE OUR BLACKHAWKS?:
They will not be the four line rotating madhouse of 2010, the buzzsaw/cut-throats of 2013, nor will they be the veteran savvy champions of 2015. The 2016 Chicago Blackhawks will be a re-invented circus of talent, raw youth, and hopefully Crawford's desire.
If not, it could be a short spring.
Filed under: Chicago Blackhawks