An Advanced Look: Evaluating the Blackhawks’ Defense

By Melissa Peterson
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If you’ve spent any time watching games this season, there’s been a certain aspect of the Chicago Blackhawks’ game that appears to be missing. There’ve been a number of debates as to what exactly is causing it, or even if it exists. If it does, is it coming from goaltending, defense, lowered shooting percentages of Chicago’s top scorers? Or is it some dreaded trifecta? In the next few posts, we’re going to be taking a look at even-strength lines and how they compare to previous years’ performances to get an idea of what’s going on (You can also check out previous posts discussing the Penalty Kill and the Power-play).

I had previously talked about Corey Crawford’s goaltending, as well as how Antti Raanta compares to it. So now we’ll move in to discussing defense.

If you’re not familiar with some of these abbreviations or terms, the entirety is listed at the bottom under “Resources” with brief explanations for your convenience. All charts can be clicked on to enlarge. 

Charts courtesy war-on-ice | Current as of 23 February 2015

What this chart tells us is that, although still below league average, Chicago has been less successful than last season at suppressing shots, and, more troubling, in each of the three zones. While Crawford’s save percentage has been able to absorb these extra shots against overall thus far, there’s no real guarantee that that will continue to hold true.

What’s even more significant is that many teams have not seen their overall average shooting percentage level out yet at this point in the season. In fact, 16 teams, including the Blackhawks, still have lower shooting percentages this season than their four season average. What this means is that the more shots allowed against, the higher the chance of them scoring.

So what kind of chances are we talking about?

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Although Corsi For percentages seem pretty similar (54% in 2014/15, 55.5% in 2013/14), you need to look at actual event rates to understand the shift. In 2013/14, Chicago had 47.3 CA events per 60 minutes. This broke down in 3,879 events at 44.5%, for a total Corsi Event rate of 8,717 (so, 4,838 CF). In 2014/15, Chicago has 51.5 CA events per 60 minutes. This broke down into 3,090 events at 46.0% for a total Corsi event rate of 6,717 (so,3,627 CF). You’re looking at an event rate increase of 4.2 CA/60.