Blackhawks’ hesitance to shoot exacerbating talent deficit
The Hawks certainly have had less offensive-zone possession time than their opponents this season, but they’ve also done less with the possession time they’ve had.
The Blackhawks aren’t shooting as much as they could or should.
That’s plain for anyone to see. It’s plain for the Hawks themselves to see. It has been talked about on and off inside the locker room, at practice and during video-review sessions for several months.
For some reason, however, the Hawks haven’t been able to translate that observation and instruction into action.
‘‘A lot of times this year, we’ve . . . [had] a lot of good shot opportunities where we try to get even a better shot,’’ forward Philipp Kurashev said Friday. ‘‘But sometimes you’ve just got to get it on net. You never know if it’ll go in, or maybe there’s going to be a rebound for someone. That’s how we have to do it. We have to be more simple, just putting pucks to the net and trying to get to those little areas where the loose pucks are going to be.’’
A third-period power play Tuesday against the Devils nearly offered proof. The Hawks had passed the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone for a while without taking a shot. Patrick Kane eventually decided he had had enough and ripped a wrist shot from up high.
The shot had a low goal probability and didn’t end up even registering as a shot on goal because Devils defenseman Jonas Seigenthaler blocked it in the crease. But coach Luke Richardson liked what he saw and would like to see a lot more of it.
On closer review, the rebound off Seigenthaler barely bounced over Kurashev’s stick. Had he been able to one-time the puck, it would’ve had a high goal probability. Coincidentally, while watching the Lightning-Predators game Thursday on TV, Richardson saw a similar play unfold in which Lightning forward Corey Perry corraled the rebound and scored.
Richardson also recently showed the Hawks a clip from their loss last Sunday to the Islanders in which the line of Kurashev, Max Domi and Taylor Raddysh brought a steady shooting mentality — at least for a 50-second shift.
‘‘We were skating, so we were the ones retrieving the puck, keeping it in the zone, and then we’d get another chance,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘It’s not just [about] getting shots on net. It creates more ‘O’-zone time and secondary chances. [We’re] repeating that and showing them that theory does work . . . [so] hopefully they keep that in their minds.’’
The Hawks’ season statistics are rather pathetic. During five-on-five play, they’ve taken 924 shots to their opponents’ 1,333. That 40.9% ratio ranks last in the NHL, well below the 31st-place Coyotes at 42.2%. They’ve taken more shots than their opponents in only three of their 26 games. They’re also last in shots-on-goal ratio (40.9%) and scoring-chance ratio (39.7%) and third-to-last in expected-goals ratio (40.5%).
There’s no doubt that imbalanced possession time is contributing to those ugly numbers. The Hawks simply don’t have the puck in the offensive zone nearly as much as their opponents do.
But it seems they have the puck more than 40.9% of the time, even if it’s well below 50%. If they were more aggressive with shooting opportunities, they might close the gap a bit.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of decisiveness. Richardson and Kurashev mentioned a need to ‘‘pull the trigger a little quicker’’ — before opposing defensemen move their sticks or bodies into the open lanes, that is.
‘‘A lot of times, we are making good plays and [are] just maybe one step too late,’’ Kurashev said.