When Two Worlds Collide: Normalized EV/PP/PK during "The Skid"

And one of those is a world of suck.

We all know the memes flying around this season regarding the Blackhawks, especially during the current 7-game 8 game skid. In a nutshell "EVERYTHING sucks" and the team, as constructed, has no chance to succeed. A tweak here or there will solve nothing. But is that true?

I broke down some basic numbers from the first 7 games of the losing streak in an attempt to see what's really been happening. Is it all on the goaltending? Is the PK costing the Hawks all of these games? Is it the PP? Do the Hawks suck even at 5on5? Is it the system, and therefore by extension, the coaching? Maybe it's a bit of everything?

By taking a closer look at the numbers, I believe we can narrow it down to what is hyperbole and what is likely fact.

First let's look at even strength...

If you've ever asked the question "What's the difference between a .849 Sv% over 7 games and league average goaltending?" you now have your answer. It's the difference between giving up 24 goals (what the Hawks actually did) and 13 (what some fictitious "average" goaltender would have done - and you know this goalie is fictitious because the idea of that ever happening seems so absurd).

The Hawks are actually out-shooting their opponents by a 4 to 3 margin at EV, or about 30 shots per game to 23. In not one game did the Hawks get out-shot at even strength. And in a few games, like EDM, CGY and SJ, the Hawks were dominant. Corsi exaggerated this even further. In a number of games the Hawks were over +20 as a team. (including the 8th loss against PHX). If you only looked at Corsi and shots, you'd think this team was on an point streak.

Think about that. The Hawks are getting 30 EV shots per game. That would probably be tops in the league if they did that nightly. The 23 shots against at EV would also be among the best in the league if they kept this up over the course of the season (Oh, wait. They actually do? I thought the defense sucked??). And this is during their worst losing streak in years.

And no, the SOG haven't been skewed much at all by the score. The Hawks have been close in just about every game. In the one blowout against Edmonton, the Hawks allowed the Oilers to pour it on in the end, so the normal increase in shots for the losing team never materialized. The Hawks actually had a larger shooting advantage in the first two periods, whereas 3rd period shots over the 7-game span have been pretty much even.

Yet, the Hawks are giving up 3.43 GPG at EV - at EV! - and only scoring 1.86 GPG. Not a good foundation when the PP and PK have been useless.

Now think about that one. Even though they are handily out-shooting their opponents they are getting outscored 2 to 1. That is a direct result of goaltending - both for and against. During the past 7 games, the Hawks goaltenders have been a dismal .849 while the Hawks shooters have faced hot and/or above-average goalies (.938). Basically, they've faced Henrik Lundqvist every night.

It's hard to win when you face goaltenders performing at that level. It's nearly impossible when, additionally, your own goaltending is below the Steve Mason-Dixon line.

When normalized for "average goaltending" the tape tells a different tale. League-average goaltending this year at even strength is .920. Using this percentage - and thereby removing the "goaltending effect" - the difference is astounding. The Hawks would have outscored the opposition by a half goal per game at EV.

In conclusion, this team does not appear to have a personnel problem - at least not at even strength. And the defense is actually limiting SOG. Facing above-average goaltending has cost the Hawks .53 goals per game, but their own goaltending has cost them an additional 1.61 goals per game. There is no team in the history of ever that could consistently overcome spotting the opposition 2.14 goals per game. Over the course of 7 games, that adds up to a difference of 15 goals.

Good news: the the opposing Sv% will regress. Bad news: The Hawks' may not.

(and there's a Leddy joke in there somewhere about him being the only Hawks player who has literally been "facing" below-average goaltending. Turn around Leddy!!)

Next up, not so special teams...

If you thought we had isolated the problem as "goaltending", well, not even close. The PP and PK are downright miserable, and it has little to do with goaltending. In fact, even when the numbers are normalized for goaltending (.880 league avg on PK), nothing really changes. And if we remove the last game against SJ, the Hawks goaltenders have had an above-average Sv% of .914 while shorthanded.

The hawks have been on the man advantage 19 times and shorthanded 22 times, yet they have been out-shot 47 to 11 on special teams.

The hawks have been on the man advantage 19 times and shorthanded 22 times, yet they have been out-shot 47 to 11 on special teams.

11 shots on 19 power plays??? Getting outshot 4 to 1 on special teams??? How does that compute when we just saw that the same team excels at EV?

It doesn't.

One often hears phrases like "The Hawks have too much talent to struggle like this on special teams." There's more than just a bit of truth in that statement. The Hawks are a top-heavy team. With such a large and highly paid core, there's not much of a middle class. Time will tell whether that approach works better than "spreading the wealth," but when you have elite talent, the rule is you do what you can to retain it. But I digress...

The point is, special teams is a chance to showcase that concentrated talent. Instead of rolling the usual four lines, you typically only roll two. The Hawks should have a clear advantage over most of the league here. "Average" results should be unacceptable. "Bottom of the league" is well beyond inexcusable.

The power play woes go beyond having a winger at the point. The PK woes go way beyond having Leddy out there. His numbers aren't much worse than anyone else's for a guy who shouldn't be out there in the first place. Sure, bringing in a PK defenseman should help, but probably not nearly as much as some seem to believe. And that's hardly the only questionable personnel decision.

This is systematic and the blame has to lie squarely on the coaching staff.

Bad special teams has costs the Hawks more than half a goal per game.

And finally, here's the overall picture...

Hawks are getting outscored by 2 to 1, but when normalized for overall league-average goaltending (.914), they would be be outscoring their opponents by .18 per game. So even with the dog-fucking-awful special teams, the Hawks could likely be .500 or better on this road trip; partly due to the opposing goalies' performances, but mostly due to Crawford and Emery.

In a nutshell, the Hawks hit the perfect storm. It's like flipping a coin and it coming up tails 7 times (now 8) in a row. Even though they're winning the skating battle 5on5, they're losing everywhere else at a rate not seen all season.

Storms pass, this will too. But the underlying problems remain. Fix the goaltending. Change the philosophy on special teams.

The first item might correct itself (however unlikely), be solved from within, or fixed by acquiring a goalie. The second item requires the organization to re-evaluate itself. And that's not so easy to do. Hopefully, the silver lining in all this is that the shit show on ice forces them to finally do so. Consider me not holding my breath.

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