Four games into the season, the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t been overwhelmingly impressive despite their 3-0-1 record. Their only regulation win was against the Sabres pee-wee team, but they managed to beat Dallas in a shootout and a promising Predators team in overtime. In a bizarre game against the Flames, the Hawks only managed one goal in an overtime loss despite 50 shots on net and 96 shot attempts in total. With all the skill Chicago possesses, would it benefit them to be a bit more patient for better scoring opportunities or should they continue to fire at will?
Possession Numbers Through the Roof
Other than their win against the Sabres, the Hawks have only scored five goals in three games, which may be slightly troubling. You can pretty much assume that the offense will work itself out though based on solely talent, but advanced statistics back them up as well.
NHL teams are slowly moving towards the analytics movement and are smart in doing so. Since the 2009-10 season, the Hawks lead the NHL in even strength CF% at 54.4%. The Kings, Red Wings, Bruins, and Sharks round out the top five over the past five seasons. Last year, the Kings led the league at 56.8% and the Blackhawks were close behind at 55.5%. This statistic seems to be a pretty good predictor of success, but doesn’t guarantee it. For example, the Devils and Senators were third and eighth respectively last season and missed the playoffs, while the Avalanche and Canadiens came in at 25th and 26th. Some teams get lucky and others don’t.
The surprising statistic early on in this season for the Hawks is their CF60, which is the number of shot attempts they are generating on even strength per 60 minutes. Since the 2007-08 season, the best CF60 has come from the San Jose Sharks of last year, at 62.28. Right now, the Blackhawks have put up a blistering 73.92. Going game by game, the Hawks have put up 50, 62, 78, and 45 even strength shot opportunities (not adjusted for 60 minute rates). While 78 may be a fluky number and the Hawks are surely going to see their CF60 drop as the season goes on, it may not be outlandish to think the Sharks’ mark of 62.28 is in jeopardy.
While it isn’t necessarily a number to shoot for (Corsi puns), it might be the best way to go. With a collection of goal-scorers, plenty of these pucks will find the back of the net soon enough. However, they could try a more patient route while still remaining at the top of the league in possession. With players who have no problem of retaining the puck and making nifty passes, taking their time in the offensive end while moving the puck around could result in more goals. Their CF60 would lower, but their CF% probably wouldn’t. For example, the Devils and players like Jaromir Jagr who love dancing around with the puck, waiting for the perfect pass, only had a CF60 of 49.25, which was 4th worst in the league. Their CA60, or Corsi against, was the lowest in the league by a wide margin, at 41.25. More time with the puck in your opponent’s zone means less time for your opponent to take shots.
Other than Michal Rozsival, every Hawk sports a positive Corsi rating. While Chicago’s stars have been performing up to, or above par in most cases, their depth players have been performing even better. Daniel Carcillo is taking advantage of his new opportunity by posting the highest CF% on the team of 74.3%. Not far behind him is Marcus Kruger, who has proved he can be a very useful and reliable player despite not finding his name in the box score too frequently. At the bottom of Chicago’s roster are Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane’s new linemates.
With such a strong core of possession players, the Hawks rely on depth players to keep the opponent off the board. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, and Kane all rank in the top 20 CF% over the past five season, with Toews ranking third. The top two lines are sure to be successful, but it also seems like the coaching staff is doing a terrific job of bringing up young players and bringing in new players that fit the system.
Game by game statistics provided by hockeystats.ca. Player, team, and yearly statistics provided by puckalytics.com