Whenever the job-reaper comes for Jeremy Colliton, be it the middle of the season, in the summer, or never, he’s going to try and mount some defense if only to make himself more attractive for another job down the road. He doesn’t want to be Trent Yawney, y’know? And the first thing, maybe the only thing, he can point to as something that’s improved markedly from his first year to his second is the penalty kill.
The Hawks currently are in the top-1o on the PK, which is a drastic improvement on the historically bad unit that befouled arenas and our TV sets last year. Now it would be easy to dismiss this improvement as merely and improvement in goaltending, and you can’t ignore that.
This year the SV% on the kill is .892, third-best in the league. Last year it was .842, which was sixth-worst in the league. So yes, that’s a big difference. But it’s not only that.
Overall, there are other improvements however. This year, the Hawks are giving up 97.4 attempts per 60 on the kill. Their xGA/60 on the kill is 6.33. Last year, those numbers were 104.5 and 8.1. Now, it’s hard to visualize or really understand those numbers, but a 25% reduction in expected goals against certainly is noticeable. The attempts against moves them from third-worst last year to middle of the pack this year, even if a reduction in attempts of merely 6% doesn’t really register.
If it helps, the Hawks have gone from giving up 63 shots per 60 minutes on the kill to 56 now, which directly mirrors the attempts they’re giving up. So it’s not like they’re blocking shots that much more often, they’re not even giving the lanes to shoot. Which is good.
On an individual level, there’s been improvement both in new players brought in and an uptick from those that were already here:
xGA/60 This Year/Last Year
Connor Murphy – 6.35/7.89
Duncan Keith – 7.62/8.94
David Kampf – 7.4/9.54
Jonathan Toews – 6.00/8.96
What has also helped is the players who weren’t here. Where Brent Seabrook led the team in shorthanded time-on-ice last year, that’s been replaced, or was, by Calvin de Haan. Ryan Carpenter in for the declining Marcus Kruger. Olli Maatta has replaced Carl Dahlstrom and Seabrook, and the one thing Maatta has been good at is on the kill.
Speaking of Seabrook, it’s time to be mean.
Those are the differences in the Hawks PK’s CA/60 and xGA/60 after and before Seabrook was put on the shelf for the season. It’s only been 14 games, and any special team can go on a run for 14 games. I’M NOT SAYIN’ I’M JUST SAYIN’….
So yeah, the goalies certainly have made a difference, but Colliton can claim to improved the overall system on the kill, and they certainly aren’t giving up shots from the middle nearly as much and are pushing things to the sides at a slower pace so they can get in the lanes. That’s something. It’s not enough but it’s something.
37 in 37 (in a row?)
That’s Jonathan Toews the past 37 games. We almost forgot that he only had two points in the first 11 games, where we really started to worry if he’d lost a step. He definitely was a half-step behind the play more than we’d ever seen before. And now he’s been averaging a point-per-game for nearly half a season, and is on pace for 66 points which would be just about what you’d expect. If he were to continue to be a point-per-game, it would be 73. And it’s surprising because A) he’s not lighting it up on the PP like he was last year and B) he hasn’t really been playing with any offensive dynamo. Saad and Kubalik are certainly not bad players, but they aren’t the dynamic forces that Kane or DeBrincat can be. So yeah, we’ll never worry again…until next October, obvi.