The Blackhawks know that stats don’t tell the whole story
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org December 13, 2011 9:38PM
Patrick Sharp and the Blackhawks are 9-2-4 in one-goal games. That is the kind of stat that can’t be skewed by some bad games. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
The facts: 6:30, Versus, 720-AM.
Updated: January 15, 2012 8:19AM
Every team has bad games. But for the Blackhawks, there are two horrendous ones that skew their stats and raise doubts.
Thanks to ugly losses to the Vancouver Canucks (a 6-2 rout on Nov. 6)
and the Edmonton Oilers (a 9-2 disaster on Nov. 19) — in which they allowed a combined nine power-play goals — the Hawks have one of the worst penalty-kill rankings.
Also, their goal differential of plus-7 would be better if not for those two losses.
But looks, as they say, can be deceiving.
With a matchup looming Wednesday against the NHL-leading Minnesota Wild in St. Paul, Minn., the Hawks have proved that those two games and other rough ones are just exceptions to what is otherwise a pretty good start to the season.
“We’ve played some good games since that time,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s a situation where we’ve had some good stretches this year and we’ve had some stretches where we’re ugly. But recently, we’re trending in the right direction.”
Those losses to the Canucks and Oilers are by far the two worst for the Hawks through 30 games. Take those two games out of the equation and the Hawks’ numbers dramatically change. Their goal differential becomes a solid plus-18 and their penalty kill improves to 85 percent from the current 77.4.
The altered penalty-kill rating would put them among the top 10 in the league instead of the bottom five. And the adjusted plus-18 mark would be the third-best mark in the Western Conference heading into Tuesday’s games.
“It’s always tough when you see those numbers that don’t look so good,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “You try to justify or think ‘Why are they that bad?’
“I like our penalty kill. I think it’s been real strong as of late. We had a bad run there for two or three games where we had seven or eight goals against. That’s going to kill the numbers especially early on the season. But I don’t know if the numbers matter as much as the on-ice play.”
Unlike last season, the Hawks are finding ways to manufacture points and remain in contests they’re not particularly impressive in such as Sunday’s overtime win against the San Jose Sharks. They are 9-2-4 in one-goal games this season.
“There’s been a couple of ugly games lately where we’ve been going to a shootout or the overtime period, but it doesn’t matter to us,” Jonathan Toews said. “We want to find a way to win. Even those tough games we have that confidence we can pull it out.”
Their game against the Wild, which lost 2-1 at Winnipeg on Tuesday, promises to be another tight game. The Wild have been the NHL’s biggest surprise, winning with a commitment to a system and solid goaltending.
It also will be a chance for the Hawks to prove they’re better than what some of their numbers say.
“The last couple years they haven’t been an easy team to play against, so that defensive style is taken up another notch this year,” Toews said. “We’ll be ready to stay in another tight low-scoring game.”