FanPost

Happy Easter- Let's Play Hockey!

Generally, I think statistics are most useful mid-season. Early on, the data just aren’t there, and by year-end, the lattice of potential collapses down to what actually happens, and you can just watch it.

But, there’s still 20 hours before puck drop, and I’m trying to figure out just how I feel about this team. Emotionally, I’m prepared for anything. Defeat is still a very good possibility, and, in retrospect, it would fit this season.  But can the Hawks take two straight here? At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. And in that event, we could again look back on the season and see this as the logical next step.

In this way, the game(s) tomorrow and (I hope) Tuesday will define this team and this season, and regardless of what happens, it will all make sense.

 I like their chances- I think they’re better than the 25% chance you’d get on calling two straight coin flips. What I really like is when Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, and Bolland all play. These are their five bona fide top-six forwards.

[Pause re Bolland: there are 180 top-six forwards in the NHL, by definition. No way Bolland is not in the top 100 forwards in the NHL, probably top 80. Anyone who disagrees can furnish their evidence in the comments.]

Which isn’t to say the Hawks need to cram these guys on the top two lines. On the contrary, spread out over three lines, they pose huge match-up problems for any team. This is my hypothesis.

Another thing about the data I’m looking at: I’m gonna consider only games after November 24, 2010. On that date, the Hawks were 11-11-2; afterwards, they never again touched hockey’s crappy version of ‘.500’. Prior to that time, Campbell had missed several games, Turco had played the majority of games, and the team was in the throes of a ‘hangover’. After this point, Crow was mostly in net and, other than our five heroes, the team suffered no serious injuries.

I think the subset I’m looking at is more relevant/indicative of what we might expect tomorrow, but you may disagree. If you rerun the numbers on the full season, however, the conclusions aren’t significantly different.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, here are the numbers for our Fab 5 through November 24th:

Games

G

A

P

+/-

PPG

Sharp

23

13

10

23

-10

1.00

Kane

23

8

14

22

-6

0.96

Hossa

19

8

10

18

+2

0.95

Toews

24

9

9

18

+5

0.75

Bolland

18

1

3

4

+1

0.22

 

Remember Hossa and Sharp outta the box? I don’t recall Kaner producing so regularly, but there it is, and Toews made up for his customary slow start by Thanksgiving. On the negative side, ugly numbers outta Bolland and ugly +/- from Sharp and Kane.

After Thanksgiving (including playoffs), the Hawks have gone 35-21-7 in 63 games, good for a 100 point pace. Not shabby, but nothing to make a team with the mental toughness of Vancouver quake.

But the Hawks have only had the Fab 5 together for 24 of these 63 games. In those 24 games, the Hawks are 18-4-2. Let’s just pause and let this sink in for a minute. Since Thanksgiving, when the Hawks put their best players on the ice, they win 3 out of 4 games. Aha! Maybe this is why I feel like the Hawks have a better than 25% chance of taking the next two games- at full force, they are as good as anyone.

The flipside of this is that, when the Hawks do not dress the entire Fab 5, they are mediocre, going a mere 17-17-5. Considering that Bolland missed the last 15 games of the year, and, on top of that, Sharp was out for 8 of these games, I applaud the Hawks ability to scrape together 17 points during the stretch, just enough to squeak in.

Let’s consider the table below, which summarizes the Hawks success during the games after Thanksgiving:

Player(s) out (game numbers)

W

L

OTL

Pace

Bolland/Hossa/Kane (32)

0

1

0

0

Bolland/Sharp (72-79)

4

3

1

92

Hossa/Kane (29-31, 33-36)

5

1

1

129

Toews (38-40)

0

3

0

0

Hossa (27, 28, 50, 55)

1

2

1

62

Bolland (52, 54, 58, 62-63, 68-71, 80-85)

6

7

2

77

Kane (37)

1

0

0

164

Total

17

17

5

82

None

18

4

2

130

 

This table tells us several things:

·         Having three guys out is not good (though you may argue: sample size!)

·         The Hawks suck when Toews doesn’t play (0-3-0, duh)

·         Bolland out hurts (10-11-2 in total)

·         Hossa and Sharp too, kinda (6-4-2 and 4-3-1 in total, respectively)

·         Obviously, Kane (6-2-1 in total) should be benched in favor of Scott.

I kid, of course, although if Patrick Kane reads this, feel free to interpret it as calling you out- that’s right kid, we need two tomorrow as a down payment. To me, though, these data suggest Bolland (largest sample size) is a very important piece to this team.

Next, I considered how well our heroes did in the 24 games when they were all out there, compared to how they did in other games (again, only since Thanksgiving.) My intuition tells me that a fully-operational death star is a terrible thing to behold, but one that’s only partly-built has these gaping holes where you can fly right in and blow the fucker up.

Here are the numbers, the first row for each player are the 24 games where all hands were on deck, and the second row is the other games that player played in:

Games

G

A

P

+/-

PPG

Sharp

24

10

13

23

+7

0.96

32

14

16

30

+3

0.94

Kane

24

9

13

22

+11

0.92

31

11

23

34

+3

1.10

Toews

24

8

11

19

+10

0.79

37

15

27

42

+8

1.14

Hossa

24

11

15

26

+13

1.08

27

8

9

17

-7

0.63

Bolland

24

10

16

26

+17

1.08

16

4

6

10

-3

0.63

 

I see four stories here:

·         Sharp and Kane are offensive players and, to their credit, produce points whether the team is at full strength or not. From a +/- standpoint, however, they suffer when one of the Fab 5 is out.

·         How many different ways can we say Toews is Superman? When the Hawks are at full strength, he recedes into the background offensively (sort of), but when someone’s out, he elevates his game.

·         Bolland and Hossa are monstrous when the team is at full strength, but fall off the table when the core is not intact, in both scoring and +/-. An intact Fab 5 is crucial to these two playing well.

·         When all five are out there, four of them are basically point a game players (Toews is the exception), and they’re all silly + players. That whimper you just heard was from Sideshow Bob.

Sometimes this year, the Hawks look great. They roll four lines and take it to teams like last year. Other times, they look disjointed, out-of-kilter. I believe this analysis helps explain why this has been the case, and why Hawks fans should be optimistic. They may not win the next two games, but I expect a top-flight performance in any case.


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