The Blackhawks - 31 Games to get Lucky
The Chicago Blackhawks have approximately 31 games left in the season to make the playoffs. Nineteen of these games are on the road. I think these are the keys to the Blackhawks making the playoffs:
Backup Corey Crawford
Before the All Star Break, Jesse Rogers thought Corey Crawford was slumping . Looking at the GGVT chart, I actually didn't think he was slumping. Rather on the wrong side of the win/loss column.
The Hawks had 11 blocked shots each game vs. Philadelphia (L) and Minnesota (L) compared to 17 blocked shots against Detroit (W). To ask Corey Crawford to remain this consistent (4.0 GGVT) and/or get better is somewhat unreasonable.
As the season gets longer and the pressure mounts, the Hawks will have to find a way to backup Crawford with solid defense especially if/when he has an "off" night. If Corey Crawford regresses to his average level of play, the Hawks season could be lost (which is all the more reason to get in front of the puck).
Turco's Time Is NOW
In December I published a post about Marty Turco. Since then his GGVT has fallen to -8.06. This means he has allowed 8 more goals than a league average goaltender. Turco needs to turn it around. Yes, he got the 'W' against Columbus but he did allow 4 goals (which decreased his GGVT from 7.26-8.06).
According to my GGVT calculations, a league average goaltender would have allowed one goal. It seems like as the league progresses, Turco regresses. His production has been declining since November and his goaltending needs to improve for the Blackhawks to have a fighting chance if Crawford regresses back to his average level of production.
The Four Horsemen
Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa have a combined 16.4% shot percentage in wins and a not-so-good 7.8% in losses. This discrepancy could be the result of many things: opponents playing tighter defense which is forcing the puck off their sticks, and/or controlling puck possession, and/or the Hawks having bad shot selection (this is like choose your own adventure).
I'm probably stating the obvious with this statistic (bad shot percentage in losses), but if you look at Marian Hossa in particular, his data sample is significantly smaller than the other three guys. Hossa has missed 16 games (so far). Not good. The depth isn't the same as last year so the value of having these guys on the ice the remaining 31 games is absolutely critical to the Hawks making the playoffs.
Dance With The Girl That Brought You To Prom
The Hawks powerplay is ranked 1st in the league. I would say that their powerplay has been one of the main reasons they are still in the playoff hunt. With their penalty kill near the bottom of the league, the Hawks need to do what they can to keep their PP success rate at (or near) the top of the league.
Closing The Door
The Hawks have a winning percentage of 80% leading after the second period. At first glance, this seems like a favorable number, but it isn’t - the Hawks rank 24th in the league in this category. Keeping the lead in the third period has been a bane on the Hawks season. This has got to get better.
The win against Columbus was a good start. They were being aggressive and showed intensity in the second and third periods. Let's hope they can sustain this the remainder of the season.
Create Their Own Luck
I reached out to Tom Awad at Hockey Prospectus to better understand the Hawks season and he told me the following:
The Blackhawks have clearly been unlucky this year, mainly in their inability to win close games. They are an above-average team, somewhere between #5 and #10 in the NHL. It's not normal to have a +25 goal differential and be barely on the playoff bubble. But hey, you used up all your luck last year :)
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
We'll see how lucky the Blackhawks will be the remaining 31 games.