Something is amiss with the Chicago Blackhawks. Last year, the Blackhawks got off to a terrible start and that led to the firing of legendary head coach Joel Quenneville. Jeremy Colliton took over–at the time he was the youngest head coach in the NHL–and the team played reasonably well the rest of the way. For that reason, there was some muted optimism that the Blackhawks would at least be competitive this year.
So far, that hasn’t been the case. Following an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night the Blackhawks are 3-6-3 on the season. Their 9 points has them in a three way tie for the worst record in the Western Conference along with the Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks. They’re now 12 points behind the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues who lead the conference with 21 points. They opened the season going 2-2 but have won only once since October 18. They’ve played a tough schedule during that stretch–home games against Washington, Vegas and Philadelphia along with road games at Carolina an Nashville–but tough schedules are just a fact of life in the Western Conference.
Even more alarmingly, they’re not scoring goals. The Blackhawks finished the 2018-2019 season with the #8 goals per game ranking in the NHL putting up 3.26 per game. So far this season, they’re off by over a goal a game and rank #30 in the league putting up 2.27 goals per contest. The defense and goaltending haven’t been bad and the Hawks rank #13-T on the ‘goals against per game’ table at 3.00. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to figure out that if a hockey team scores 2.27 goals per game and allows 3.00 per game it’s not going to work out well.
It’s not even a case where the top line or two is scoring and nobody else. Nobody is scoring–not even Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Kane finished last year with 44 goals and 66 assists for 110 points. This season he’s got 3 goals and 6 assists in 11 games putting him on a pace for a 22 goal and 45 assist 67 point season. The bad news? He’s the Blackhawks points leader, assists leader and tied for the goals leader. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Saad have combined for 10 goals, or one fewer than Edmonton’s James Neal has scored by himself. As if they didn’t have enough problems, the Blackhawks have also been terrible on special teams. Chicago is ranked #22 on the penalty kill (77.1%) and #29 on the power play connecting on just 9.1% of their man advantage opportunities.
Chicago has had a tendency to start slowly in recent years and particularly against opponents over .500. When playing an opponent with a winning record in the first half of the season in the past three years they’ve lost a ton of money going 11-32 -22.3 units! The Ducks have been up and down so far this season but they’ve won 3 of 4 heading into this game. They’ve been doing it with defense and currently rank #5 in fewest goals against per game allowing just 2.40 per contest. That’s a good thing, since they haven’t been doing much on offense either. Just a lot more to like with the Ducks who are 6-1-0 at the Honda Center this season. We’ll also go ‘Under’ the total–Ducks have gone Under in 21 of their last 30 games in November (8-21-1). Blackhawks have only played ‘Over’ twice in their last 9 games.