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An Advanced Look: Evaluating the Blackhawks’ Penalty Kill

By Melissa Peterson
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Defense

Chart courtesy war-on-ice

Here is a look at the overall shots against rate for the Chicago Blackhawks Penalty Kill. The blue areas represent areas where the Blackhawks are more successful at preventing shots. As you see, the area that is blue on the above chart actually represents a large portion of the Medium danger area, and explains why Crawford faces the least amount of shots from this zone. Because this is his weakest area relative to the league, it is especially important that this area be heavily defended.

First Unit

In order to examine that further by player rather than cumulative team average, I broke down the two most-used penalty kill units. The first unit is defensemen Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson paired with forwards Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger.

Chart courtesy war-on-ice

What this chart tells us is that the first line does a pretty comparable job to other teams’ first PK line at suppressing shots, reducing the chance for goals. Let’s look at this broken down by zone:

Charts courtesy war-on-ice

Charts courtesy war-on-ice

Charts courtesy war-on-ice

Charts courtesy war-on-ice

HOW TO READ THESE CHARTS

For the Differential and Rate Against charts, with Against it is better to have areas in blue, green being average and red being worse than average. The Shot Rate Differentials are per 60 minutes with 0 being equality (Shots Against for the Player minus Shots Against League Average). Negative numbers indicate less shots against for the player than league average, positive numbers indicate more than average. The Relative Shot Rates are compared to league averages for those zones and can be read as per 1, so lower numbers are better here.

Second Unit

The second most frequently used unit is defensemen Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya, paired with forwards Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. These second lines often have a higher percentage of Offensive Zone starts rather than Defensive Zone starts, which explains their Corsi Against rates and Goals Against rates falling in a lower category. These players are often “two-way” players (higher TOI but more offensive zone starts), whereas those used in the first unit tend to be reliable Shutdown players (more defensive zone starts with still high TOI). Although it is true that Oduya has more DZ starts in all scenarios than Keith, the differences between the two’s usage are not that drastic (less than 4% deployment difference at Even Strength) and mixing the pairs allows one to clear the net while the other focuses on blocking shots.

Chart courtesy war-on-ice

Charts courtesy war-on-ice

Charts courtesy war-on-ice

Charts courtesy war-on-ice

Charts courtesy war-on-ice

Conclusions

As you can tell from both lines, they are skilled at forcing shots from lower risk areas because they are able to break up plays made in the slot to upper slot areas, and are able to clear the net and guard the boards. One very important thing to note is that not only is the ability to suppress shots in the slot/upper slot area an important factor, but they are also skilled at preventing Royal Road passing in this area, which has been found to be heavily linked with scoring goals (Explanation below under Resources). This skill makes it possible for the Blackhawks to keep up a certain level of Penalty Kill success rate regardless of if Crawford is in the net, or if his save percentage dips for a night.


Resources

  • Corsi: For those that are unsure of what Corsi even is, it is measured as Corsi For and Corsi Against (CA). Corsi is the total number of on-ice shot attempts (on goal, missed, or blocked) taken during a game/series/season. Corsi For is the amount of the total Corsi taken by one team or player on said team. Corsi Against is the amount of the total Corsi taken against one team or player on said team.
  • CF% : Corsi For Percentage (of total) What this means is they’ve totaled up the Corsi Events that took place for both teams, and divided the individual team’s total by that number and multiplied it by 100 to get a percentage.
  • CP60 : Corsi Per 60. What this means is they’ve totaled up the Corsi events that took place for both teams and divided it by 60 to get an average Corsi Events per 60 minutes.
  • G+/- : Goal Differential. The total number of Goals For (GF) minus the total number of Goals Against (GA). If it is a positive number, the team is outscoring their opponents.
  • FO%: The percentage of Face-offs won.
  • OFOn%: On-Ice Unblocked Shot Attempts on Goal
  • OSh%: On-Ice Shooting percentage
  • OSv%: On-Ice Save percentage
  • PDO: On-Ice Save percentage + On-Ice Shooting percentage
  • ZSO%: The amount of Offensive Zone starts. The larger the number, the more often a team starts (with a Face-off) in their Offensive Zone

Goal Zones as defined by war-on-ice


Steve Valiquette has found a link between scoring and what’s referred to as the Royal Road and you can read more about that here but what it essentially states is 76% of goals scored are as a result of passes across that center green line (22%), deflections (8%), one-timers (9%), screens (10%), broken plays (9%), rebounds (8%) and possession across it (8%), in comparison to the 24% yield from non-Royal Road plays. The reason these activities have higher success rates is because they are areas in which the goalie has less than a half second to respond to them.

Sources

Stats and charts courtesy of war-on-ice.com

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