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Blackhawks’ Dominik Kubalik trying to shoot through early-season goal drought

Seemingly everything went in for Kubalik during his rookie season. He hasn’t gotten the same good luck so far his sophomore season.

Dominik Kubalik has yet to score an even-strength goal this season.
Dominik Kubalik has yet to score an even-strength goal this season.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Last season, Dominik Kubalik ranked fourth in the NHL with 23 five-on-five goals.

Through 11 games this season, though, Kubalik is stuck at zero.

His overall goal total also has fallen off a cliff, going from 30 to two. Both of those tallies came on power plays in the same game, Jan. 19 at the Panthers.

Failing to score in 10 of 11 games to start the season would have been hard to imagine for Kubalik a month ago. Now, it’s a reality.

“I’m still trying to play my game, that’s for sure,” Kubalik said Tuesday. “Sometimes [it’s] working well, sometimes not, sometimes maybe you just need a little bounce, a little luck on your side. You just have to work or be lucky. That’s my mindset right now.”

Kubalik’s frequent mentions of luck don’t indicate he’s trying to dodge responsibility; it’s the truth.

Luck aided his explosive rookie season. His 19.3% shooting percentage ranked fourth in the league, and while Kubalik’s accurate, powerful shot contributed to his high efficiency, not even Connor McDavid (a career 15.1% shooter) could maintain that pace.

Now, the 25-year-old Czech wing’s luck has gone south. His overall shooting percentage is 5.9% — and it’s 0% at five-on-five.

That drought hasn’t been caused by a lack of opportunities. Kubalik’s individual shot-attempt and scoring-chance rates have only slightly declined from 14.9 attempts and 9.5 chances per 60 minutes last season to 13.6 and 8.2, respectively, this year. His shots-on-goal rate has actually increased from 8.8 to 9.9 per 60.

And on the power play, Kubalik has nearly doubled his per-60 rates in every metric, whether it be shot attempts (26.1 to 48.1), shots on goal (14.8 to 27.1) or scoring chances (12.6 to 21.1).

But all of those numbers haven’t translated in the box scores.

“You want to score as much as possible, right?” he said. “But on the other side, I have to do something different with the puck when the puck is not going in.

“When you think about it too much, it’s always worse. I’m just going to keep going, keep shooting, keep getting around the net and I’m pretty sure things will turn around pretty quick.”

One change he has noticed is opposing defenses paying more attention to him and checking him more tightly. Being a Calder Trophy finalist will have that effect.

For now, he has sought to remodel himself as more of a playmaker. He’s tied with a team-high six assists, including two Tuesday against the Hurricanes.

“Especially on the power play, if one guy’s going to be on me, we’re going to take a four-on-three and somebody else is going to be open,” he said. “That’s what you want. Maybe I’ll be open, maybe somebody else, just [need] to make it count.”

And while the Hawks — given their lack of elite finishers — will need Kubalik to start finding the net eventually, their two other Swiss league products have picked up the slack.

Pius Suter and Philipp Kurashev boast four goals each with 18.2% and 28.6% shooting percentages, respectively.

Plus, one hot streak — like Kubalik had in January 2020, when he scored 10 goals in eight games — could push Kubalik back to his usual pace.

“It’s a hard league to score in,” coach Jeremy Colliton said Wednesday. “He’s definitely had some chances, including a couple last night. He keeps getting them, but the challenge will be to create more puck possession, create more zone time for him and his linemates. There’s nothing to do but keep working.”