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Angry At Numbers: Throwing Ducks At Balloons And Nothing Is The Way It Seems

You’ll call me the height of an analyst, and maybe even possibly a genius, when I tell you the Hawks season has been really weird. Five straight games into overtime, none to a shootout. The Hawks can’t play defense, but they’ve somehow suckered every team they’ve played into not playing defense either. It’s made for mindless, senseless fun.

When you dig into the analytics, not only do you cause some of Eddie Olczyk’s hair to shift back down toward his neck where it came from, but you see that the Hawks are only weirded. And probably tiptoeing on a high wire with very high winds that’s not going to work out well.

For instance, the Hawks only have eight skaters that are below water in Corsi-percentage. And three of them have only played one or two games in John Hayden, Andreas Martinsen, and SuckBag Johnson. The Hawks boast seven players who are above 55%, which is a mark of dominance (the top line, the top pairing, and Artem Anisimov and Chris Kunitz and no I don’t understand either but that’s kind of the point of all this).

And yet when it comes to expected-goal percentage, the Hawks only have three players above water (Marcus Kruger, Artem Anisimov, and David Kampf). So much like last year, the Hawks spend a good portion of the time in the right end. They generate more attempts than their opponents most of the time. But when the play gets into their defensive zone, suddenly it’s Freeswim For The Ritalin Crowd and they give up far better chances in less time than they get with more time in the offensive zone.

Brandon Saad’s 39% xGF% sticks out, but Nick Schmaltz is right down there with him at 41% and Saad’s replacement on that line, Alexandre Fortin, is at 42%. We’ve known that Schmaltz’s line tends to get run over in the d-zone, despite however good he might be at stealing pucks. Keep in mind that Schmaltz is getting blasted in terms of chances and types of chances despite starting 82% of his shifts in the offensive zone. That’s…a problem.

Meanwhile, Marcus Kruger continues to be a unicorn in usage and production, and is going totally French hipster by being the opposite of his team.

“Marcus Kruger you must do this!”

“Well I’m not gonna. I’m gonna have a sandwich.”

Kruger has started 5% of his shifts in the offensive zone. I think that’s probably like one or two so far this season. He has a shitty Corsi of 41%, which isn’t hard to understand given where he’s starting. And yet he has an expected-goals percentage of 52.1%. So even though he’s starting in his own end, and even though he’s spending a majority of his time there, the chances the Hawks get when he’s out there are far better than the ones they’re surrendering when he’s out there. Which makes it curious that he’s not getting even 20% of the ice-time at even-strength. But again, nothing about the Hawks really makes sense.

As a whole team, it’s kind of the same story as last year. They’ve got the ninth-best team-Corsi, and the seventh-worst expected goals percentage. They’re shooting 9%, which is just a shade north of average, and they’re getting a .916 save-percentage at evens, which is a touch below average. All of that flattens out to a 100.6 PDO, meaning the Hawks really haven’t been lucky or unlucky in those terms. Which probably explains why they have five glorified ties to their name.

Going a little further into it, the Hawks xGA/60 is 2.88, one of the worst marks in the league. They’ve actually only surrendered 2.71 GA/60, so they’re getting by there. Their xGF/60 is 2.34, but their actual GF/60 is 3.2. Now, that’s not all luck, as we’ve discussed the idea of “bad shot-makers” on this team for a while. At least Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat can score from places that are less likely than most, Toews is capable, and so is Schmaltz. But that doesn’t account for all of that.

However, fear not, as the Hawks’ difference between their expected goals and actual goals is only fifth-biggest in the league. So they won’t be alone when that bill comes due.

Or maybe hockey’s weird and they’ll just be like this for a while because sometimes that happens. It’s what we have to hope for.

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