With the Hawks roughly at the halfway point of the season, let's look at some numbers.
First and most importantly, we find the Hawks in 11th place in the Western Conference. A closer look reveals a record good for 13th place in the West after adjusting for games played. In case you've forgotten, only the top 8 teams make the playoffs. At this point last season, the Hawks had 57 points. This year, they have 43. This is troubling.
Some are beginning to wonder if this is a playoff team. I believe it is, but they have work to do in order to get there. According to SportsClubStats.Com
, the Blackhawks will need 92 or more points to have a greater than 50% chance at the playoffs. In order to get to this point, the team would need a record of 22-15-5, or something similar adding up to 92 points in their remaining 42 games. Another thing to consider is that SportsClubStats is only a statistical website. It is usually pretty accurate, but 92 points may be lower or higher than the actual cutoff point in April. For argument's sake, let's set it at 94 instead. With this in mind, the Hawks need a record similar to 23-14-5 in their remaining 42 games to simply be in a position to MAKE the playoffs.
This number is scary. In simpler terms, the team can only afford a regulation loss roughly once every three games. They need to start racking up points. Jonathan Toews returning to the lineup tonight in Los Angeles should help.
There is some good news found in other statistics:
- The Hawks' +9 goal differential, for what it's worth, ranks 4th in the entire Western Conference.
- The Hawks are averaging 3.05 goals per game, good for 8th in the NHL. This puts them above impressive teams like San Jose, Washington, and Los Angeles. This has been accomplished without much production from an injured and underachieving Marian Hossa and a banged up Patrick Kane.
- They have the best power play in the NHL, converting at a 24.8% clip.
- The Hawks win 51% of their faceoffs, thanks mostly to Jonathan Toews (59.6%.) This puts them 11th in the NHL.
- They also rank 11th in 5 on 5 goals for/against ratio.
- The Hawks place in the top 10 in the NHL in both shots for and shots against per game (32.1 and 28.8.)
How do the Hawks have the 13th best record in the West despite being in the top half of the NHL in so many important statistics? It all comes down to a little bad luck, some underachieving and what Joel Quenneville likes to call a low "compete level."
The Hawks have suffered untimely injuries to important players. The injuries not only took the players out of the lineup temporarily but made them less effective upon returning. Patrick Kane might be on the ice and "healthy" but his level of play indicates otherwise. Marian Hossa, for all of his impressive back checking, has notched one goal in 18 games. You can't be a contender if your scorers don't produce.
Bad luck goes beyond injuries, too. Late in last night's game vs. Anaheim, Viktor Stalberg had a wide open net with the puck on his stick and a chance to tie the game. Stalberg fired the puck and raised his arms expecting a goal, but Dave Bolland deflected the puck wide past the open net. It was a representation of how the season has gone. There have been too many close games that the Hawks have won on the stat sheet but lost on the scoreboard. Last night's game, as well as last month's game in Colorado are examples of points simply slipping away.
In order for the Hawks to make the playoffs, those days have to be over. If they are tied through two periods, they need to play their best hockey in the 3rd and assure themselves of at least a point. Remember: regulation losses must be few and far between from here on out.
Besides their penalty kill (25th in the NHL), the Hawks are in the top half of the league in many important statistical categories. A statistician would tell you it is *likely* that things begin to balance out and that the Hawks will end up in the playoffs. Unfortunately, hockey isn't necessarily like baseball where a player can be "unlucky" because of a low batting average of balls in play. In the NHL, you're often forced to create your own luck. They did that last year and haven't done it enough this year.
The Hawks have started on fire the past two seasons and coasted down the stretch into the playoffs.
This year, the opposite will be counted on by anyone wanting to see hockey in late April.
Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks, Dave Bolland, Joel Quenneville, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, United Center
Blackhawks, Blackhawks playoff chances, Chicago Blackhawks, Joel Quenneville, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, NHL Playoffs, Patrick Kane, Viktor Stalberg