Putting A Points Price Tag On The Blackhawks PK

Doug Pensinger

The Chicago Blackhawks Penalty Kill Has Given Up An Alarming Number Of Goals This Season. How Much Will It Cost Them?

Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks penalty kill was a source of pride throughout the year, while the power play was ineffective, to phrase it nicely.  This season has seen the two juxtaposed.  The power play has been a pleasant surprise resulting in twenty goals.  As of December 7, 2013, the Blackhawks have allowed 24 goals on the penalty kill.

The penalty kill has been the subject of much debate:

How can the Blackhawks fix the penalty kill?

The team should not have traded Michael Frolik!

Stop worrying about it this early in the season!

The first three games of the season, all agree, were a bit shocking when the supposedly formidable penalty kill gave up five goals.  Arguments have been made by multiple parties that digging the PK% (penalty kill percentage of effectiveness) out of the dumpster after those first few games will take a long time.  The same arguments point to the Blackhawks current position as 29th in the league in PK% as misleading due to this problem at the start of the season.  The team’s current PK% is 71.8%.

Removing the first three games of the season wherein the Blackhawks PK% was a miserable 44.4%, leaves 28 games in which to compute the PK%.  The Blackhawks PK% over that 28 game span equals 75.0%.  That percentage is good for 29th in the league, also known as the exact same league rank the Blackhawks currently hold.  At this point, it should be abundantly clear that the penalty kill is in deplorable shape.  The next dilemma is to determine whether the penalty kill is actually costing the Blackhawks points in the standings.

The Blackhawks have allowed at least one power play goal against in seventeen games this season.  This represents 54.8% of the games played.  Their record in these games is 8-9.  When the Blackhawks current rates are applied, we are able to predict what they are on pace for on the season as a whole (for what that’s worth).  The Blackhawks are on pace to give up at least one goal on the penalty kill in 45 games this season.  Given their current rate, 24 of those games would result in losses with 8 of those losses resulting from overtime or a shootout and thus 1 point gained in each.

The Blackhawks have only lost 2 games this season when not giving up a power play goal to their opponent. The two losses were on November 3, 2013, in overtime to the Calgary Flames and November 19, 2013, in regulation to the Colorado Avalanche.  Using these numbers to further predict the team’s season success, the result is 37 games played without a PPGA, of which 32 would result in wins.  The remaining 5 games would be split between regulation losses and losses in overtime or a shootout, thereby gaining 1 point.  For the sake of carrying these possible scenarios through to the end, these rates would lead to a record of 53-19-10.

Using a much more simplistic formula (i.e. using win, loss, ot/so pts rates), other Central Division teams possibly on pace to finish the season as playoff competitors include the St. Louis Blues (on pace for 57-16-9) and the Colorado Avalanche (on pace for 61-21-0).  These season record predictions are probably unlikely given the number of divisional match ups on the horizon and the general feeling that the Avs success rate will likely drop quite a bit with any let up in their goaltending.  These are a bit fear inducing though.  On the off chance that these rates were to hold up, the Blackhawks would find themselves in third place in their own division at the end of the season.  Before we adjourn to the panic room though, let’s look more closely at how the Blackhawks games are shaking out when they give up a goal on the penalty kill.

Date/Opponent

Final Score

CHI vs. Opponent

Power Play Goals Against

PPGA

Power Play Goals For

PPGF

CHI Shooting Percentage

(5 on 5)

Sh%

CHI Save Percentage

(5 on 5)

Sv%

CHI Points Gained/

Possible

10-1-13 WSH

6-4 W

3

1

16.0

93.8

2/2

10-5-13 TBL

2-3 (so) L

1

1

3.4

91.7

1/2

10-9-13 STL

2-3 L

1

2

0.0

93.5

0/2

10-17-13 STL

2-3 (so) L

1

0

10.0

95.2

1/2

10-19-13 TOR

3-1 W

1

1

6.7

100

2/2

10-24-13 TBL

5-6 L

2

1

13.8

88.2

0/2

10-26-13 MIN

3-5 L

1

1

6.9

77.8

0/2

10-29-13 OTT

6-5 W

1

1

14.3

87.1

2/2

11-10-13 EDM

5-4 W

2

1

12.9

93.3

2/2

11-14-13 PHO

5-4 (so) W

1

1

7.3

88.5

2/2

11-16-13 NSH

2-7 L

2

0

5.7

77.3

0/2

11-21-13 WPG

6-3 W

2

1

10.5

100

2/2

11-23-13 VAN

2-1 W

1

0

8.0

100

2/2

11-30-13 PHO

5-2 W

1

1

11.1

96.3

2/2

12-3-13 DAL

3-4 L

1

1

6.8

86.7

0/2

12-5-13 MIN

3-4 L

2

1

13.3

89.5

0/2

12-6-13 ANA

2-3(so)L

1

1

5.9

95.0

1/2

The table above breaks down the seventeen games in which the Blackhawks have given up goals on the penalty kill.  For the most part, the 5 on 5 Sv% has been very strong (avg. 94.875%) in the games the team has won despite giving up a power play goal to their opponent.  The average shooting percentage in these wins is 10.55%.  In the win on October 29, 2013, wherein the Sv% was relatively low, the Blackhawks 5 on 5 Sh% was very high. In other words, they were able to shoot and score their way out of the problem.  The game on November 14, 2013 also featured a low Sv% and a low Sh%.  This game went to a shootout, which for practical purposes is coin toss decision for the extra point.

The losses in which the Blackhawks have given up a goal on the penalty kill, demonstrate an average save percentage is 88.32% with an average shooting percentage of 7.31%.  The shootout loss on October 17, 2013 features both a strong Sh% and Sv%.  This game was low scoring and it is easy to see how the PPGA contributed to the eventual loss. The losses on October 5th and 9th are examples of the Blackhawks being unable to shoot their way out of the problem while the goaltending was strong.  Finally, the loss to the Wild on December 5, 2013 demonstrates a very strong Sh% combined with an "okay" Sv% while at 5 on 5 being derailed by conceding two power play goals.

With the exception of the blowout loss suffered by the Blackhawks at the hands of the Predators on November 16, 2013, the remaining losses were one goal games and a two goal game against the Minnesota Wild on October 26th.  A successful penalty kill could have given the Blackhawks nine more points at this time of the season by a conservative estimate (assuming the game would have been tied and reached overtime or that overtime/shootout games would have ended in regulation).

Last season, winning one goal games was the bread and butter of the Blackhawks.  Problems with the penalty kill this season has led to these games going to the opponent on several occasions.  This early in the season, we are all hesitant to wring our hands over a few losses; however, the weakness of the penalty kill is undermining one of the biggest strengths of last season’s Chicago Blackhawks.  In order to have the success they want, the team will need to shore up the penalty kill to avoid giving away points in a very competitive division and conference as the season moves forward.

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