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Number Munchers: Comparing the Blackhawks statistics under King, Colliton

At 12 games apiece, let’s examine what the numbers say about the Blackhawks before and after the coaching change.

Chicago Blackhawks v Seattle Kraken Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Following the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 shootout win over the New York Islanders on Sunday night, they’ve now played 24 games of the 2021-22 NHL season.

That means we now have an equal number of games with each coach behind the bench: 12 for Jeremy Colliton and 12 for Derek King.

Seems like a good time for a Number Munchers comparison, doesn’t it? Let’s dive in.

On the day Colliton was fired (Nov. 6), the Blackhawks were 1-9-2 with only the Arizona Coyotes below them in the Central Division standings. With four points, Chicago was eight points behind the Nashville Predators for the final playoff spot and fourth place in the Central, six points behind the Dallas Stars and five points behind the Colorado Avalanche.

Twelve games and exactly one month later, Chicago is 9-13-2 with only the Arizona Coyotes below them in the Central Division standings. With 20 points, Chicago is seven points behind Nashville for the final playoff spot and fourth in the Central, and six points behind Dallas and Colorado — with the latter two teams each having three games in hand on the Blackhawks.

So, essentially no ground has been gained in the standings, despite the 8-4 record of the King era. That’s not encouraging.

Perhaps the biggest statistical difference between the Colliton era and the King era is in save percentage of the team’s goalies.

Under Colliton, Blackhawks goalies had a save percentage of 0.873 during 5-on-5 play, which was the worst mark in the league. Under King, that number soars to a league-best 0.949.

Goaltending has obviously improved under King, with Marc-Andre Fleury finding the form that won him the Vezina Trophy last season. But goaltenders can be aided by better play from the team in front of him, and it certainly has looked like the Blackhawks have been better in their own end since the coaching change.

Does the data align with that eye test? Natural Stat Trick can answer that question for us. Here are the team’s numbers from the 12 games in the Colliton era, along with where that ranked in the league:

  • Shot attempt share (CF%): 45.09 percent, 30th in the NHL
  • Shot on goal share (SF%): 43.56, 31st
  • Goal share (GF%): 25.49, 32nd
  • Expected goal share (xGF%): 40.73, 32nd
  • Scoring chance share (SCF%): 43.25, 31st
  • High-danger chance share (HDCF%): 45.78, 26th

Pretty awful, right? Well here’s what those numbers look like in the 12 games of the King era:

  • CF%: 47.61, 25th
  • SF%: 46.63, 27th
  • GF%: 53.13, 12th
  • xGF%: 46.46, 25th
  • SCF%: 47.55, 23rd
  • HDCF%: 48.90, 19th

There is some mild improvement there, although the Blackhawks are still below league average in pretty much every category above.

Let’s see if we can look at these numbers a different way and figure out exactly what’s going on with the Blackhawks in the King era. For another exercise, let’s look at the rates of shots, goals, scoring chances and more that were occurring in the Colliton era and compare it to the King era, focusing on the defensive side of the game.

Again, these are all 5-on-5 numbers and the Colliton era is up first:

  • Shot attempts against per 60 minutes (CA/60): 59.30, 27th
  • Shots on goal against per 60 (SA/60): 32.25, 26th
  • Goals against per 60 (GA/60): 4.11, 32nd
  • Expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60): 2.50, 24th
  • Scoring chances against per 60 (SCA/60): 30.95, 27th
  • High-danger chances against per 60 (HDCA/60): 9.74, 13th

And here’s the King era:

  • CA/60: 54.89, 12th
  • SA/60: 29.29, 10th
  • GA/60: 1.5, 2nd
  • xGA/60: 2.25, 11th
  • SCA/60: 26.79, 14th
  • HDCA/60: 9.3, 4th

Clearly a noticeable change here, with the Blackhawks giving up significantly lower rates of shots, scoring chances and goals against in the last dozen games than they were in the first dozen of the season. That certainly lines up with the way the Hawks have looked over the last month.

Let’s apply that same approach to the offensive numbers and see if that reveals any differences. The stats below are the same as the ones above except that it’s what the Blackhawks are generating, hence the switch from all of the As above (meaning against) to Fs below (meaning for).

Colliton era offensive rates:

  • CF/60: 48.69, 30th
  • SF/60: 24.89, 31st
  • GF/60: 1.41, 31st
  • xGF/60: 1.72, 32nd
  • SCF/60: 23.59, 30th
  • HDCF/60: 8.22, 32nd

King era offensive rates:

  • CF/60: 49.89, 28th
  • SF/60: 25.59, 31st
  • GF/60: 1.7, 30th
  • xGF/60: 1.95, 30th
  • SCF/60: 24.29, 28th
  • HDCF/60: 8.9, 31st

Not much movement there at all, really. The Blackhawks primary form of offense in the Colliton era was taking advantage of rush opportunities, not sustaining pressure in the zone for long periods of time. And based on the numbers above, it doesn’t appear that sustained offensive pressure has become a consistent occurrence under King, either.

The point here is that the Blackhawks defense has been significantly better under King, with notable decreases in the rates at which opposing teams are racking up chances, shots and goals. That, along with better play from Chicago’s goaltenders, has been key in the team’s 8-4 record under King.

But the offense is still struggling to generate much of anything at 5-on-5 play, with virtually every forward not named Alex DeBrincat in the middle of a significant scoring slump. That leads us into a bit of a chicken-and-egg argument: is this team struggling offensively because players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Dominik Kubalik, Kirby Dach and others are all in scoring slumps, or are all of those players struggling to score because a team-wide focus on defense first has come at the expense of generating offense?

The answer to that question should start moving into focus as the Blackhawks continue a busy month of hockey in December.