The Blackhawks' Inability to Score Has Sunk Their Season

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The Blackhawks’ Inability to Score Has Sunk Their Season

Chicago Blackhawks

It’s not often that you can write-off a team (that isn’t one of the bottom two or three in the standings) at the mid-way point of the season. But the Blackhawks are pretty likely out of it. At 15-20-7, having just been shutout by the Colorado Avalanche and having lost four-straight games, the Blackhawks’ streakiness this season under Derek King has gotten them almost nowhere. As the trade deadline approaches on March 21, the team should be shifting focus from maybe making a playoff run, to selling anything not bolted to the ground in the organization.

How did it get to this point?

Marc-André Fleury and Seth Jones came to this team to be upgrades on defense and in net. Jonathan Toews came back. Kirby Dach was healthy. This was supposed to be a team that could make a run into the postseason. While Fleury and Jones have pretty much lived up to their billings, it’s come down to Chicago’s inability to score goals that has doomed their season.

Let’s put it this way, statistically, it’s no surprise we are here with this team. Here’s how Chicago ranks this season according to Natural StatTrick:

•   5v5 Shooting% – 6.61 (31st)
•   5v5 High-Danger Shooting% – 14.95 (25th)
•   5v5 Expected Goals-For/60min – 2.03 (T-31st)
•   Goals-For per game – 2.29 (30th)
•   Shots on Goal per game – 28.4 (29th)

It doesn’t get much better when you factor in special teams either, with Chicago still ranking just 28th in all strength shooting-percentage (8.05) and tied for 30th in the NHL in expected goals-for per 60 minutes (2.48) at all strengths.

Outside of Alex DeBrincat (24) and Brandon Hagel (10), Chicago doesn’t have any of their top offensive producers scoring at the rate that they should be this season. Forget supplemental scoring, the Blackhawks have gone this entire year without primary scoring.

Patrick Kane (6.4%), Jonathan Toews (5.6%), and Dominik Kubalík (9.7%) are all shooting at their lowest percentages of their careers. Dylan Strome is also shooting at a lower-rate compared to his career average, shooting at an 8.9%-marker, the second-lowest of his career just ahead of the 7.5% he was shooting in Arizona in 2018-19 prior to being traded to the Blackhawks.

Ironically, a player everyone is dogging this season, Kirby Dach, is shooting at his career-best shooting-percentage so far this season with a 9.0%-marker. Granted he still has only netted six goals in 39 games.

In the NHL, for a team to get hot or be consistently considered “good” you need at least these two things: goal scorers scoring goals (duh) and you need either timely or top-tier goaltending. Think of where this Blackhawks team would be without the play of Marc-André Fleury in net this season. It would be down with Arizona, Montreal, and Seattle. Not that Chicago has much room to look down on those teams anyway.

Fleury is 13-13-3 this season with a .913 save-percentage and a 2.76 GAA. He ranks 52nd out of 58 goalies who have played at least ten games this season in goal support per 60-minutes, getting just 2.27 goals per start from his teammates. On the flip-side, using Colorado’s starter Darcy Kuemper for reference, he has a 19-5-1 record with the same save-percentage as Fleury, .913, and a 2.63 GAA. But he gets 4.06 goals in support per 60-minutes from the Avalanche. In short, finishing makes a difference.

Chicago’s shutout loss last night at the hands of the Avalanche was their third of the season. In their three shutout losses this year, they have allowed a combined five goals against (1-0 vs Blues on October 30, 2-0 vs Sharks on November 28, and 2-0 vs Avalanche last night). The loss was also the tenth time this season that Chicago has scored one or no goals in a game. Unsurprisingly, their record in those ten games is terrible at 1-9-0. They’ve scored one goal or less more times this season than they have scored four or more goals in a game, which is seven times. In those seven games, the Blackhawks are 5-2-0. Funny how that works.

The last time the Blackhawks did not reach 200 goals scored as a team in a full 82-game season was in 2006-07 when they scored 195 goals. The lowest goal-output in a full 82-game season for Chicago was in 2003-04, when they scored 188 goals as a team. At their current pace, this 2021-22 Blackhawks team is looking to score 186 goals combined.

Barring any player going on a goal-scoring tear, there seems to be no goal support coming for the Blackhawks outside of All-Star winger Alex Debrincat, who is scoring near a 50-goal pace this season. With the team looking off-load players in the next seven and a half weeks, some who should be primary goal-scoring options like Kubalík, there seems to be no turnaround in-store for this Blackhawks season.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.