Blackhawks deficient in all areas, but goaltending the biggest reason for 0-3 start
It looks increasingly plausible the winner of this battle might be the least bad goalie rather than the best one.
The sample size is extremely small, but the Blackhawks’ ‘‘relatively open’’ goalie competition — as coach Jeremy Colliton describes it — has worked out poorly in two ways so far.
Both primary competitors, Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban, have been bad. They also have been equal.
So while the Hawks lose games in part because of poor goaltending — the most consequential of countless reasons for their 0-3 record and 15-5 goal differential — they also make no progress toward determining a winner.
‘‘Both of them stood in there, and obviously you give up some goals, [but] we [also] gave up some chances,’’ Colliton said Monday, trying to spin it as positively as possible. ‘‘They both made some saves, and that is bouncing back. Both of them responded well to when things didn’t go their way.’’
Subban started the first game, allowed five goals and finished with an .848 save percentage. Delia started the next two, allowed five goals in each and stands with an identical .848 save percentage. By comparison, the NHL average so far is .904.
In terms of advanced stats, they both grade out abysmally. Subban has allowed 84% more goals than expected, based on locations and shot-takers; Delia has allowed 134% more than expected.
‘‘We’re still taking it day-to-day, with the overriding thing being we want to give all three [including Kevin Lankinen] an opportunity,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘But if someone steps up and shows they deserve a little more, then that’s there for them, too.’’
The battle will wage on for weeks and months to come, and there are still 53 games for someone to assert his dominance. Lankinen, the third-stringer right now, will get his opportunities, too — potentially very soon.
But it might be that the winner of this battle could be the least bad goalie, not the best one.
If one of them ends up with a .900 save percentage, one at .890 and one at .880 at the end of the season, for example, will the Hawks really have determined anything meaningful? Probably not.
Plus, distributing the playing time roughly evenly also might prevent one of them from settling into a steady routine of starts and potentially improving his performance that way.
Take it from Delia after his loss Friday to the Lightning.
‘‘[It’s] definitely huge to play a string of games,’’ he said. ‘‘You get in a rhythm. You get all those moments [and] muscle memory back. . . . We’ll see what the plan is here moving forward. It’s just day by day right now. I’ll practice hard, and hopefully you get the net for the game.’’
The less-than-encouraging goalie conundrum is only one of many problems the Hawks must work through moving forward, however.
Defenseman Adam Boqvist is falling swiftly into a sophomore slump. Wing Dominik Kubalik barely is seeing the ice. The Hawks have conceded the first goal in every game. The list of woes on this road trip to Florida stretches longer than I-75 from Tampa to Sunrise.
‘‘Around our net is a big part of it,’’ defenseman Connor Murphy said after the game Sunday. ‘‘I don’t think right now we have the right intensity that we need. That’s definitely including all of us ‘D,’ and it can go as far as forwards winning battles, too.
‘‘And then I think just some puck play and some breakdowns. You can have a breakdown, but you’ve got to know how to manage that chance or that play. We don’t seem to be doing a very good job of that as a team.’’
The silver lining is that the Hawks haven’t been completely caved in. In the three games, five-on-five shot attempts actually rest in their favor (112-111) and scoring chances are even (62-62).
With better goaltending, the Hawks’ situation might not look so bleak. But better goaltending might not arrive anytime soon.