Hawks Insider

Why Hawks are having success on special teams

/ by Charlie Roumeliotis
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Hawks Insider
Jonathan Toews

The Blackhawks are nearly 15 percent into the 2021-22 season and sitting with only one win. They fell to 1-8-2 after Wednesday's 4-3 loss to Carolina and have the second-fewest points (4) of any team.

But there has been one consistent bright spot: The special teams.

Typically, when one area of the special teams is having success, the other part isn't clicking in the same way. It's difficult to get both of them going at the same time. But that's exactly what's happening for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks have scored the second-most power-play goals (10) this season and have converted on 23.3 percent of their opportunities, which ranks tied for No. 10. They've also killed off 89.2 percent of their penalties, which ranks No. 4.

And digging deeper into the numbers, their success in both areas appears to be sustainable.

On the power play, the Blackhawks have an expected Goals For of 10.63, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the best in the league. Their actual Goals For are 10. If the actual Goals For was higher than the expected Goals For, then you know there's a little bit of puck luck involved. But that's not the case.

By comparison, the Edmonton Oilers lead the NHL with 13 power-play goals but their expected Goals For is at 8.57. They're riding a high shooting percentage at 24.5. The Blackhawks are at 13.16. It helps when you have two of the best offensive players in the world in Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, so they might be an exception here, but no team finished with higher than a 19 percent shooting percentage on the power play last season.

 

The Blackhawks also lead the NHL in scoring chances for (77) and high-danger chances for (29) on the man advantage. They're earning everything they get, and it even clicked during the four-game stretch when Patrick Kane was in COVID-19 protocol.

"I thought the power play was pretty good when I was out," Kane said. "They were still getting a lot of shots. A little bit different look with [Dominik Kubalik], more of a shooter there.

"When I’m out there, I have so many options when I get the puck. I have a righty in the slot, a lefty down low, a righty on the back side with Cat, and a righty up top. Just a lot of shooting options when you make a play and a lot to create off that. Coaches did a really good job of setting that type of power play up, and there's just so many options when I get the puck."

On the penalty kill, the Blackhawks have tightened things up significantly. On a per-60-minute basis, they have an expected Goals Against of 5.53 (4th) and high-danger chances against of 14.97 (8th). It helps when you're getting the goaltending as well, with a save percentage of .929 (4th).

The weird part about all of this? The success on special teams isn't translating over to 5-on-5, where the Blackhawks rank dead last in expected Goals For percentage (42.5) and goal differential (-21).

That's the next and most important step.

"It’s just weird how things haven’t necessarily translated to 5-on-5," Calvin de Haan said. "We're creating chances, we're not giving up a ton. It just seems like bad puck luck right now, and hopefully it turns sooner rather than later."

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