A hallmark of the Chicago Blackhawks during the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews era has been puck possession. I recall the Blackhawks playing keep away from the L.A. Kings in the Western Conference finals in 2013. The 2015-16 Blackhawks did not possess the puck as much as in years past. It was evident while watching games this season. The image of the Blackhawks controlling the puck in the opposing end for 30 seconds or sometimes a minute plus was a staple of previous teams. This season, we saw more one and dones/dump-chase. Here are the numbers to show how significant the puck possession dropoff was for the Blackhawks.
In 2009, the Blackhawks were first in the league in CF percentage at 56.5 (Corsi For percentage = Corsi For/(Corsi For + Corsi Against). They were also third in the league GF percentage at 54.9. (GF percent = Goals For/(Goals For + Goals Against). Marian Hossa lead the Blackhawks with a 60.1 CF percent and was third in the NHL. Toews was sixth and Kane was seventh in the NHL (minimum 50 minutes of ice time). The result of the season was the Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup since 1961.
In 2010-11, the Blackhawks finished fourth in CF percent at 52.8 and recorded a 53.5 GF percentage, which was good for seventh in the NHL. The team was led by Toews, who had a CF percentage of 56.6 but he was ranked 27th in the NHL. The result of that season was a Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round exit to the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.
In 2011-12, The Blackhawks were sixth in the NHL in CF percentage at 52.9. They had a 50.0 GF percentage, which was good for 14th in the NHL. They were led by Toews at a 57.6 CF percent, which was good for 26th in the NHL. The result of that season was the Blackhawks losing in six games to the Phoenix Coyotes in a first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup. This, to date, is the only Game 6 loss in the Kane and Toews era.
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In 2013, the Blackhawks finished fourth with a 54.1 CF percentage and were first in the NHL in GF percent. They had a 60.7 GF percentage in 48 regular-season games. The team was led Hossa with a 58.2 CF percentage, which was good for 31st in the NHL. The result of this season was a Stanley Cup victory over the Boston Bruins in six games.
In 2013-14, The Blackhawks finished second with a 55.5 CF percentage and were fourth in GF percentage at 55.2. They finished behind the Los Angeles Kings in both categories and would ultimately lose to the Kings in the Western Conference finals in seven games. Jeremy Morin led the team with a 62.5 CF percentage, good for third in the league. Morin appeared in 24 games that season. Toews was the first Blackhawks regular, at 14th with a CF percentage of 59.1.
In 2014-15, the Blackhawks finished second in the NHL with 53.6 CF percentage and were seventh in the NHL with a 54.2 GF percentage. Toews and Duncan Keith were tied at 55.9 CF percentage, good for 47th and 48th in the NHL. The Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Lightning in six games to win their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.
In 2015-16, the Blackhawks finished 14th in the league with a 50.7 CF percentage and 19th in GF percentage with a 48.9. The Blackhawks’ best regular was Erik Gustafsson at 53.7 CF percent, which was good for 111th in the NHL. The Blackhawks lost to St. Louis in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The series went seven games.
The numbers bear it out: This Blackhawks team was the weakest it has been since 2009 in two key possession metrics. The numbers don’t lie: The Blackhawks were a middle-of-the-road team in terms CF percentage and GF percentage.
If you break it down further.
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A number of key Blackhawks saw their CF percentages go down from their normal marks this season. Kane’s Corsi-For went from 54.7 in 2014-15 to 53.1 this season. Toews went from 56.8 to 52.2. Hossa went from 55.8 to 52.0.
The scoring the Blackhawks lost last offseason was also well documented, but look at the puck possession they also lost. The Blackhawks lost Brandon Saad‘s 54 CF percentage, Patrick Sharp‘s 55.8 mark and Johnny Oduya‘s 51.5 mark from last season. They replaced them with Andrew Ladd‘s with 49.2 CF percentage with the Blackhawks. Newcomers Artem Anisimov (50.2 CF percentage) ,Artemi Panarin (53.0) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (49.0) were hit and miss as well.
The numbers back up the eye test, and the eye test told us that the Blackhawks did not possess the puck as much this season as they did in years past. Their lack of puck possession ultimately led to their early playoff exit (previous examples seen in 2010-11 and 2011-12).
If you glean anything from this article, it is the Blackhawks need to hold onto the puck more than they did this season. It is that simple.