Despite last night’s loss, or tie but goes down as a loss in a gimmick, the Hawks over the last 11 games have gone 6-3-2. That’s a pretty decent record, there are some decent teams in that stretch they’ve played, and had they been at that pace all season would work out to a 104-point pace. Were they to maintain it the rest of the year they’d end up with 87 points. Not nearly enough for the playoffs, not anywhere near the top of the lottery, but probably allows them just enough wiggle room to turn their palms up at the season-closing presser to say if just a couple things more had gone right or Crawford not gotten hurt or something to say they’re on the right path. And hell, maybe in some way if you squint real hard that wouldn’t be entirely wrong, depending on how players like Collin Delia, Henri Jokiharju, Connor Murphy, Carl Dahlstrom, Dylan Sikura, Dylan Strome, and one or two others close out the season and portend to the future.
But because results can get so weird in hockey and not really be connected to anything, we’re more interested in process around here. So in the last 11 games, is the Hawks process any better?
Starting on the day the Hawks beat the Penguins at home, they are 15th in points percentage. But they’re 27th in Corsi-percentage, at an unsightly 45.1% They’re 28th in scoring-chance percentage at an even more homely 44.3%. Salvation in high-danger chances? You best believe that’s a nope: 29th at 39.9%.
Worrying more is that all of these numbers are significantly worse than the Hawks’ season-long marks, which means whatever changes Coach Cool Youth Pastor is trying to make haven’t had an effect, or they have and made things worse than they were. That’s not where the Hawks are supposed to be, especially because he’s actually gotten a small, minuscule even, infusion of talent that Quenneville didn’t get in the form of Murphy, Dahlstrom, and Sikura (who’s been pretty good but keeps getting benched).
What the Hawks are getting over the last three weeks is luck and goaltending. Their PDO has risen over 1.000, to 1.021, and that’s mostly due to an even-strength save-percentage of .935 the last 11, which is ninth in the league, as opposed to their season-long .917. That’s a difference of six goals at just even-strength in 11 games, and you can imagine what kind of effect on results and points those six goals would have had, depending on where they were placed.
Has anything gotten better? Well, yes, a very little. A crimp you can barely hang onto. They’re giving up a touch less attempts and shots per 60, so that’s nice. But they’re taking less as well. They’re also giving up about the same amount of scoring chances per hour but are creating less. So that’s not optimal either.
What the Hawks have done is massively improve the power play, and that can be at partially credited to our very fashionable and hip coach. They’ve piled in nine PP goals in the last 11, where they’d only managed 11 in the 32 games before that. So that helps, and power play goals do count, despite what some would tell you. Somehow though, the penalty kill has gotten worse, giving up a goal per game in this streak while “only” giving up 23 in 32 games before that.
So while it’s been more enjoyable, in some ways, to watch the Hawks win a few games for a change, there’s nothing about it that suggests it’s sustainable or indicative of a brighter future. In the words of Homer Simpson, “It’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.” Or more to the point, Collin Delia made a bunch of damn saves and Cam Ward didn’t puke on himself the whole time.
That could be better.