Hockey

The Road Ahead

Fair warning, I’ve just finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy so anything referencing a road might cause me to throw myself out the window in the middle of this blog. You’ll get to trace it though, so that’ll be fun.

The Hawks will return to practice tomorrow and then to game action on Saturday, and they really won’t get much of a chance to play their way back into top form. They’re still three points out of a playoff spot, with only Winnipeg to leap, but basically everyone in and around the wild card spots will play another game before the Hawks get back to it on Saturday night. Which means the Hawks will have games in hand on most, but those only matter if you win them.

So how does it stack up? Right now, the West’s last wildcard holder is on a 90-point pace (still very sad). The Hawks are on about an 87-point one, and it took them winning 11 of 16 to even get to that. So to get to 90 points, the Hawks will need 36 points from 31 games, which would be a 95-point pace. And that’s if you believe that the target won’t arc up a bit, which you would think it would just a touch.

You would be tempted to go through the schedule, but that’s kind of folly for hockey because individual games come up weird. Your goalie has a bad night or theirs has a great night or you hit three posts in a period or something. As you look at it now, February does look like it’s a good runway, as the only games against the league’s glitterati are one against St. Louis, one against Boston at home, and one against Tampa. The rest are either against teams the Hawks are around in the standings are also-rans like the Ducks or Rangers. Essentially the Hawks have it all in front of them this month. They can play their way right into the thick of it or they can play themselves right out of it.

March looks even tastier, with the Ducks, Wings, Sharks, Senators, two against the Wild, Kings, and Canadiens all on the docket mixed in with tougher games. That’s the kind of slate you’d like when you’re competing for something, especially as some of those teams if not all will be stripped for parts by then.

So can the Hawks keep this pace up? We’d like to see things trending that way, so let’s et graphical!

Here are the rolling five-game averages for their CF% (blue) and xG% (red):

So those are going up. Their xG% ends at 53% and has been in the upper 40s for the last seven, but have been under 45% most of the season. Their average Corsi has been over 50% for the past nine. Again, small samples but at least trending the right way in five-game averages. They’ll have to keep going to get to the 90-point mark.

Of course, with the Hawks it’s about their defense. So here’s their five-game rolling average of Corsi against per 60:

And their xGA/60 rolling five game aveage:

Again, trending down, which is good. Still, since December 1st, when the Hawks have picked up their games somewhat, they rank 26th in Corsi against at evens and 30th in xGA/60 against. So their trendlines might just be part of a league-wide belt-tightening, which we see every season as scoring goes down as the season goes on and people don’t care as much. The numbers are no better from January 1st on, so it’s hard to see how the Hawks can be this bad defensively and remain competing for the playoffs. They’ll need those trendlines to continue to go the ways they have been the past couple weeks, let’s say.

Still, as we said before the break, there’s probably a Debrincat binge waiting, and the power play will spasm a good couple weeks you’d think for no reason other than HOCKEY! So it’s hardly out of the question the Hawks can defy their defensive averages or rates a little longer.

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