Blackhawks notebook: Hawks rank 27th in faceoff percentage, but does it matter?
Plus, the Hawks’ Reverse Retro sweaters finally debut and Collin Delia struggles in his AHL start.
Not all faceoffs are created equal.
That’s Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton’s view, at least, and it’s difficult to argue against him.
“I would say a penalty-kill faceoff or a power-play faceoff or a last-minute faceoff is more important than a neutral-zone faceoff,” Colliton said. “[But] they’re . . . all scored the same way on the stat sheet. That’s something we can track. We can get better, for sure.”
That comment arose because the Hawks rank 27th in the NHL with a 46.9% faceoff percentage, continuing a lengthy trend of faceoff troubles. Not since 2014-15 have they been above 50%.
The available data support Colliton’s claim that the overall win percentage doesn’t tell the full story, though. A 2012 study at St. Lawrence University found it takes approximately 164 neutral-zone face-off wins to produce one additional expected goal. For offensive-zone faceoffs, that number decreases to 60. For offensive-zone faceoffs on the power play, it takes only 35.
Unfortunately for Colliton, the Hawks are pretty bad at all types of faceoffs, even the more relevant ones.
In the offensive zone, they’re 26th at 46.2%. In the offensive zone on the power play, they’re 19th at 52.5%. In the defensive zone, they’re 19th at 47.3%. In the defensive zone on the penalty kill, they’re 27th at 37.2%.
The special teams are clearly most affected by the faceoff weakness.
In their previous four games entering Sunday, a stretch in which the penalty kill has allowed six goals in 11 opportunities, the Hawks have won nine of 20 short-handed faceoffs. That 45% win percentage isn’t terrible, but some of the losses have been costly, as the Hawks never regained possession until conceding a goal.
“It doesn’t help,” Colliton said Sunday. “Special teams are where the faceoffs are probably most important. On the PK, you can get it clear. And on the power play, you can get possession, and you don’t have to waste 25 [or] 30 seconds.”
Among the centers, Pius Suter (42.0%), Dylan Strome (44.6%) and Philipp Kurashev (44.9%) have fared poorly. The absence of Jonathan Toews, one of the best faceoff men in recent history with a 56.9% career win percentage, has been felt heavily.
At least David Kampf — 53.0% this year, 50.5% for his career — is still around, and Carl Soderberg (52.5% this year) has been great lately. But even Kampf has struggled while short-handed, winning only 33.3% of his 69 penalty-kill faceoffs.
Reverse Retro sweaters debut
The Adidas-designed Reverse Retro sweaters that the NHL unveiled for each team this season have generated lots of buzz, and the Hawks finally debuted theirs on the ice.
The throwback look is mainly black, with red shoulders and waist and fewer stripes than their standard home sweater. The logo used is identical to the one from 1941 to 1955, with “Black Hawks Chicago” encircling an earlier depiction of the Hawks’ familiar Native American head.
Delia poor in AHL start
Third-string goalie Collin Delia started for Rockford on Saturday and saved only 24 of 30 shots as the IceHogs lost 6-3 to Cleveland, the Blue Jackets’ affiliate.
It was Delia’s first action since his Jan. 15 and 17 starts with the Hawks.
The 26-year-old goalie was given an AHL conditioning stint Friday, allowing him to go down without passing through waivers but limiting his time with Rockford to 14 days.