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Number Munchers: Examining the Blackhawks numbers in the King era

We’re 27 games into the King era. How do the numbers look since the coaching change?

Nashville Predators v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Following Monday’s loss to the Seattle Kraken, the Chicago Blackhawks have now played 27 games in the Derek King era, amassing a 14-9-4 record. That’s a pace of roughly 97 points over an 82-game schedule, which would likely be in contention for a wild card spot.

Since that’s roughly one-third of a full 82-game season, it feels like a good time to take a deep dive into how this team has fared since the coaching change back in November.

The last time we took this plunge, it was a comparison between King’s tenure and the disastrous 1-9-2 start under Jeremy Colliton. Let’s leave the latter well in the rearview mirror and focus solely on King’s time behind the bench (to get an idea of where the team stands from a season-long perspective, just scroll to the bottom of our most recent game preview).

Here’s where the team stands in several possession-based metrics since King took over, again utilizing the data from Natural Stat Trick. This data is all based on 5-on-5 situations:

  • Shot attempt share (CF%) — 47.11 percent, 26th in the league
  • Shot on goal share (SF%) — 47.44, 22nd
  • Expected goal share (xGF%) — 47.57, 23rd
  • Scoring chance share (SCF%) — 46.53, 24th
  • High-danger chance share (HDCF%) — 48.64, 19th

The quick summary here is that the Blackhawks are still being largely outshot and out-chanced during 5-on-5 play under King. However, they have outscored opponents 43-40 at 5-on-5 play since King took over, a 51.81 share of the goals that’s ranked 14th in the league. So, if the Blackhawks are not generating as much quantity or quality of possession as their opponents, how are they still outscoring them?

Answer:

Chicago has a league-best .938 save percentage at 5-on-5 play since King took over. Of goalies who’ve played at least 250 minutes in that timeframe, Fleury’s individual save percentage at 5-on-5 play is .947 — No. 1 in the league.

That’s the main conclusion to be drawn from any deep dive into Blackhawks statistics this season: Marc-Andre Fleury remains primarily responsible for any success the team has enjoyed over the last two months. It’s making the King-era Blackhawks feel a lot like the 2019-20 Blackhawks team, which was also largely outplayed in most situations but was propped up by the stellar goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner.

Checking in the Blackhawks not-so-special teams

Before King’s first game on Nov. 7 against the Nashville Predators, Chicago had the No. 5 penalty kill in the league with a conversion rate of 87.5 percent and the No. 13 power play at 22.2. As of Tuesday morning, the PK was down to 26th in the league at 76.32 and the power play checked in at 18.75, good for 19th.

Let’s see if there is any statistical information that can explain why the penalty kill has plummeted so far. Perhaps the rates at which the Blackhawks are allowing shots and chances can offer some explanation:

  • Shot attempts against per 60 minutes (CA/60) — 112.19, 31st
  • Shots on goal against per 60 (SA/60) — 64.11, 29th
  • Expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60) — 8.35, 28th
  • Scoring chances against per 60 (SCA/60) — 61.1, 27th
  • High-danger chances against per 60 (HDCA/60) — 25.54, 29th

The Blackhawks are in the bottom five in all of those categories above, which should explain why they’re giving up goals on the penalty kill at a rate of 11.02 per 60 minutes, which is the second worst rate in the league. Chicago goalies have a collective save percentage of .828 while shorthanded, which is 29th in the league. So when their goalies are not able to bail them out, the Blackhawks penalty kill suffers mightily — a trend that’s largely reflected at what happens during 5-on-5 play, as well.

Overall, it feels like a largely similar story with the Blackhawks during King’s reign that it was during Colliton’s tenure: far too reliant on goaltending to be responsible for the team’s success. Improved play by the skaters in front of the goalie would raise the collective performance of the franchise.

But that feels like the next verse of the same song we’ve been singing since 2017.