The calendar will flip to November on Monday and the Blackhawks are going into the new month as one of two NHL teams without a win this season. And there are plenty of reasons why.
The Blackhawks have been outscored 29-7 during 5-on-5 play, which is the worst goal differential of any club. They rank 29th in goals per game at 1.89 and dead last in goals against per game at 4.11. They're also giving up 32.7 shots per game, which is among the bottom third of the league.
But those are the surface-level stats. When you dig deeper into the numbers, there are reasons to believe the Blackhawks are on the verge of breaking through. Hear me out before you tell me I'm crazy.
Since the disastrous three-game road trip to open the season:
- The Blackhawks have averaged only 8.3 high-danger chances against at even strength on a per-60-minute basis, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's the fifth-fewest average over that span. For reference, the Colorado Avalanche finished No. 1 last season at 8.24 and the Blackhawks finished last at 12.3.
- In all situations, the Blackhawks have an expected Goals For per-60 minutes of 2.99, which ranks No. 7 over that stretch. For the entire season, the analytics site Money Puck has the Blackhawks ranked third in expected goal differential at +5.7; only Edmonton (6.72) and Pittsburgh (6.29) are ahead of them.
- The Blackhawks have also generated an average of 30.5 scoring chances on a per-60-minute basis, which ranks No. 6. They've turned 11.2 of those into high-danger chances, which is slightly above the middle of the pack.
So why isn't it translating into wins? Well, a few things.
For one, the Blackhawks are currently riding an unsustainably low shooting percentage at 5.41. The league average last season was 9.7. Detroit finished last at 8.18. Expect a significant correction there at some point, especially when Patrick Kane returns from COVID-19 protocol.
Perhaps the most notable reason? Chicago simply hasn't gotten the goaltending it was expecting from the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and one of the league's breakout rookies last season.
Of the 68 goaltenders that have made at least one appearance this season, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen rank 66th and 67th in goals saved above expected at -6.4 and -6.5, respectively. That's 12.9 goals that should've been stopped that weren't.
Fleury turned in a vintage Flower performance in Saturday's 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues in which he stopped 36 of 37 shots for a save percentage of .973. He stopped all 19 shots from the slot, according to Sportlogiq. That was much more like it.
Typically, the driving force behind a winning streak or losing skid is either an abnormal shooting percentage or save percentage. The Blackhawks' struggles are oddly due to both, possessing a PDO — a metric that combines shooting percentage and save percentage — of 90.2 at even strength. The mean is 100, and no team finished under 97.2 last season.
Look, nobody's trying to make the case that everything is fine in Chicago. The Blackhawks desperately need a win, even if it's an ugly one, just to start building some confidence.
But when anything that can go wrong has gone wrong, it's difficult to find something to hold on to. Perhaps a little puck luck can help steer things back into the right direction.