Five statistics that define the Blackhawks’ 2019-20 season so far
From Robin Lehner’s and Patrick Kane’s excellence to the Hawks’ defensive porousness and recent scourge of injuries, the underwhelming first 36 games are filled with interesting numbers.
DENVER — Five games from the midpoint of the 2019-20 season, the Blackhawks are two points out of last place in the Western Conference.
Two wins in their last three games have quieted doomsday fears temporarily, and the fact that a wild-card spot is just seven points away offers some faint hope, but the Hawks have unquestionably underperformed in a variety of aspects.
Here are five crucial statistics that speak to their season so far.
29th — Hawks’ NHL rank in scoring chance ratio
Hawks players, coaches and management clearly haven’t lost hope that they’ll surge back into playoff contention, and given the talent and experience left on this roster, you can understand the origins of their thinking.
But in terms of performance through 36 games — almost half the season — the basement of the conference standings is exactly where the Hawks deserve to be.
In 5-on-5 play, they’ve had 751 scoring chances and have conceded 884, a ratio that puts them 29th out of the 31 NHL teams. In shot attempts, they’re 27th; in shots on goal, they’re 31st — dead last.
11.38 — Difference between Robin Lehner’s actual and expected goals allowed
General manager Stan Bowman’s many moves last summer have led to mixed results, but the Hawks’ shocking signing of goaltender Robin Lehner on July 1 has proven to be brilliant.
The Hawks’ shoddy defense has left Lehner out to dry constantly. He faces 0.16 high-danger chances per minute, 12th-most among 75 eligible goalies. Shots against him come from an average of 37.8 feet away — 11th-closest among those 75.
Yet Lehner has allowed just 49 real goals, far better than the 60-plus that the numbers indicate an average goalie would have allowed in his situation, according to Natural Stat Trick.
His performance has not been lost on the Hawks.
“He’s just answered the bell every time this year,” forward Patrick Kane said after Lehner’s 36-save performance Thursday in the Hawk’s 4-1 win over the Jets. “Him and [Corey Crawford] actually are one of the reasons our record isn’t even worse than it is. They’ve been carrying us all year.”
8 —players who have lost (or will lose) a week or more to injury
Over the first part of autumn, the Hawks were abnormally healthy across the board. That has changed in December.
Winger Brandon Saad’s new ankle injury will keep him out at least a couple weeks, coach Jeremy Colliton said Thursday. That will make Saad the eighth Hawks player to miss a week or more due to injury.
Forwards Drake Caggiula (19 games and counting) and Andrew Shaw (10 games and counting) and defenseman Calvin de Haan (five games and counting — probably for a long time) are also out right now. Previously, defenseman Duncan Keith missed nine games; defenseman Connor Murphy missed 12 games over two different stretches; and forward Dylan Strome and defenseman Olli Maatta each missed four games.
The wave of injuries has exposed the Hawks’ lack of quality depth — they do have quantity, at least — and exacerbated their struggles.
100.2 —Patrick Kane’s point pace
With five goals and three assists in the last four games, Kane is on pace for 100 points for the season (43 goals, 57 assists).
His 110-point eruption last season (44 goals, 66 assists) distracts somewhat from the impressiveness of that feat, but keep in mind that last year was only the second time he’s reached triple digits.
In the NHL overall, only six players had 100 points last season, only three the season before, and only three in the previous four seasons combined. Ten players are on pace to break 100 this season. It’s a more attainable achievement, but it still remains an exclusive club.
6 —combined 5-on-5 goals for Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat
While Kane thrives in spite of the Hawks’ team struggles, forwards Toews and DeBrincat have been part of the problem. Their shockingly low goal totals — three each at 5-on-5 — are partly a product of poor fortune and partly because of regression in their overall performance. DeBrincat’s shot attempts per 60 minutes have declined from 15.6 last year to 13.8 this year; Toews’ rates are roughly equal, but he admits he has been fighting to find his offensive touch, especially in October.
Toews and DeBrincat were second and third on the Hawks in points last season, respectively, so their subpar performances this season have left the Hawks’ offense alarmingly one-dimensional and unable to counter-balance their porous defense.