Plus, the Hawks’ Reverse Retro sweaters finally debut and Collin Delia struggles in his first AHL start.
Not all faceoffs are created equal.
That is Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton’s view, at least, and it’s difficult to argue his point.
“I would say a penalty-kill faceoff or a power-play faceoff or a last-minute faceoff are more important than neutral-zone faceoff,” Colliton said earlier this month. “[But] they’re…all scored the same way on the stat sheet. That’s something we can track. We can get better, for sure.”
That comment arose because the Hawks rank 27th in the NHL with a 46.9% faceoff percentage this year, continuing a lengthy trend of faceoff troubles for the team: not since 2014-15 have they been above 50% for a season.
The available data supports Colliton’s claim that that overall win percentage doesn’t tell the full story, though. A 2012 study at St. Lawrence University found it takes approximately 164 neutral-zone faceoff wins to produce one additional expected goal. For offensive-zone faceoffs, that number decreases to 60. For offensive-zone faceoffs on the power play, it takes only 35.
Unfortunately for Colliton, the Hawks are pretty bad at all types of faceoffs, even the more relevant ones.
In the offensive zone: 26th at 46.2%. In the offensive zone on the power play: 19th at 52.5%. In the defensive zone: 19th at 47.3%. In the defensive zone on the penalty kill: 27th at 37.2%.
The special teams are clearly most affected by the faceoff weakness.
Over the last four games entering Sunday, a stretch over which the penalty kill has allowed six goals in 11 opportunities, the Hawks have won nine of 20 shorthanded faceoffs. That 45% win percentage isn’t terrible, but some of the losses have been costly, as the Hawks have never regained possession after them until conceding a goal.
“It doesn’t help,” Colliton said Sunday. “Special teams are where the faceoffs are probably most important. On the ‘PK,’ you can get it clear. And the power play, you can get possession and you don’t have to waste 25 [or] 30 seconds.”
Among the centers, Pius Suter (42.0%), Dylan Strome (44.6%) and Philipp Kurashev (44.9%) have all fared poorly. The absence of Jonathan Toews, one of the best faceoff men in recent history with a 56.9% career win percentage, has been felt heavily in this department.
At least David Kampf — 53.0% this year, 50.5% for his career — is still around, and Carl Soderberg (52.5% this year) has been great lately. But even Kampf has struggled tremendously while shorthanded, winning just 33.3% of his 69 penalty-kill faceoffs.
Reverse Retro debuts
The Adidas-designed Reverse Retro sweaters that the NHL unveiled for each team this season have generated lots of buzz, and the Blackhawks finally debuted theirs on-ice Sunday.
The throwback look is mainly black, with red shoulders and waist and fewer stripes than their standard home sweater. The logo used is identical to the one from 1941 to 1955, with “Black Hawks Chicago” encircling an earlier depiction of the Hawks’ familiar Native American head.
— Blackhawks Store (@BlackhawksStore) November 16, 2020
Delia poor in AHL start
Third-string goaltender Collin Delia started the Rockford IceHogs’ AHL game Saturday and struggled, saving just 24 of 30 shots as the IceHogs lost 6-3 to Cleveland, the Blue Jackets’ affiliate.
It was Delia’s first game action since his Jan. 15 and 17 starts with the Hawks. The 26-year-old goalie was given an AHL conditioning stint Friday, allowing him to go down without passing through waivers but limiting his time with Rockford to 14 days.