Recently, after a loss to the Colorado Avalanche, I was about to tweet out a reassurance to Chicago Blackhawks fans that there was still time in the season to fix the problems that have plagued the team. I am usually a very optimistic and positive person so when it suddenly occurred to me that I had been handing out this same type of assurance since the start of the season I was forced to rethink what I was saying. I realized I was forming that moment’s reassurance based not upon anything objective, but upon my personal feelings about the team. Obviously, as a fan of the team, I always believe in them and have faith in them to do great things. As someone who analyzes the team from a systems and statistics perspective, I feel it is my responsibility to be realistic about how they are playing. That can be very had to do and I don’t blame people for not wanting to hear it sometimes.
Instead of tweeting reassurances, I went on a mini-rant about how I did not consider Chicago to be among the very best teams in the league given their play this season. This stirred up a little controversy of course. Many very smart hockey analysts disagreed with me citing Chicago’s good possession numbers. It is true, when you look at their numbers from a percentage standpoint, they look pretty good. Chicago has some terrific offensive talent that drives those numbers even when they have small slumps in shooting percentage that cause ripples of panic to radiate through the fan base. Frankly, I am not worried about Chicago’s offense. I expect any glaring outliers in terms of shooting percentage will likely correct themselves. My biggest concern this season has been with Chicago’s shot suppression numbers. Shot suppression comes from stifling the opponent’s ability to gain the offensive zone, creating turnovers and exiting the defensive zone cleanly and efficiently. This has been the backbone of Chicago’s success despite the widespread perception of the Blackhawks as a high end offensive team (they are that too of course). Since the beginning of the season, the shot suppression metrics were not favoring Chicago, but many thought that once the defense got sorted out things would improve. The defense has not been completely sorted out at this point of the season with just over 20 games left to play.
With all of this in mind, I went through the metrics from Chicago’s recent seasons to see how they compare to this season in detail. Using the current season’s averages in each metric, I calculated the deviation from those averages on a game by game basis. Because I started with the 2008-09 season and continued forward, there was a lot of information. To make it more digestible, I graphed out the deviation from this season’s average with a 5 game moving average.
SAVE PERCENTAGE – 2014-15 5v5 SCORE ADJUSTED SEASON AVERAGE = 92.6675%
Chicago’s goaltending appears to have been far more consistent this season than in prior seasons with less variance in the highs and lows.
SHOOTING PERCENTAGE – 2014-15 5v5 SCORE ADJUSTED SEASON AVERAGE = 7.6654%
This season, the Blackhawks’ shooting percentage (sh%) has been a bit off in terms of the big name producers at times. This is not unlike prior seasons and as I said before, with all of the offensive talent on the team, I would expect this to correct as it has in the past.
FF60 (UNBLOCKED SHOTS FOR RATE) – 2014-15 5v5 SCORE ADJUSTED SEASON AVERAGE = 44.04431
Chicago’s offensive pressure appears consistent with what we saw from them last season. They are one of the “shootiest” teams in the league and have been for a while, so again, this is not really an area for any serious concern.
FA60 (UNBLOCKED SHOTS AGAINST RATE) – 2014-15 5v5 SCORE ADJUSTED SEASON AVERAGE = 38.36645
This is what I have been harping on. This is what is so concerning about the Blackhawks this season. This is so clear that it does not require a long winded explanation. This is what needs to be fixed if the Chicago Blackhawks hope to have a short summer.
*all data used herein from war-on-ice.com and current through 2/21/2015