For the ninth season in a row, the Blackhawks have clinched a playoff spot. At this point it has almost become habitual that starting this time every year you can count on late nights and a sharp decline in local shaving cream sales. Is anyone really complaining though?
At the start of the season, there seemed to be a general thought that for the first time in a while we were going to see a simply average hockey team take the ice. Of the original 2009-10 champion team only seven players have been on the team each time the Blackhawks have won it.
That core of Toews, Kane, Keith, Hossa, Crawford (who started just one game during the 2009-10 season), Seabrook and Hjalmarsson has managed to carry the team year in and year out, but some people were starting to get concerned that all of those years were starting to catch up with them. Yet here we go again.
So, let’s go down the checklist. How do the 2016-17 Blackhawks team compare to the three teams of the past decade who got the chance to hoist the cup? (Stats for the 2012-13 team will be adjusted by x1.7 due to the shortened season of 48 games)
Of the four teams, three have finished the season first in the division. The only outlier is the 2014-15 team that finished in third place.
|Season||Goals For||Goals Against||Goal Differential|
|2016-17 (as of 4/2)||237||199||+38|
This is one area where the current team doesn’t stack up so well against some of the others. With just a couple of games left in the season, it seems they’re on course to meet the 2014-15 goal differential tally which is light years away from the stats put up in the 2009-10 and 2012-13 seasons (though in this case, the stats adjustment may have caused an unfair comparison). All that said, you only need one goal more than the other guys to go home with a W each night.
|Season||Save Percentage||League Average|
With the exception of the 2009-10 season, each Blackhawks team has managed to stay above the league average which says a lot about goaltender Corey Crawford. Yes, I loved shouting, “Niemi says no!” just like everyone else, and we can’t overlook efforts from backups like Ray Emery, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, but Crawford’s consistency between the pipes is definitely a huge part of why they’ve been as good as they have.
|Season||Average Team Age||League Average|
While age isn’t a huge factor, age does play a role when we start talking about injuries and general stamina over the course of the playoffs. The average number of players who were 35 or older was only two with the number on the current roster sitting at four. It’s not a huge difference, or at least not one worth really worrying about just yet, but it does leave them more vulnerable to losing a player at a crucial time during a series.
Power Play Percentage:
|Season||Team PP%||League Average|
The Blackhawks have never been great when it comes to power play percentage. It is worth noting that this season’s team has at least a 0.61% lead over the previous teams.
Penalty Killing Percentage:
|Season||Team PK%||League Average|
This will definitely be a statistic to keep an eye on for the Blackhawks throughout the course of the playoffs. Every team that won the cup had a PK% that was at least a few points above the league average and this season it seems to have given them a bit of trouble. Whether or not this is due to a defense led by older players is up to interpretation.
So how do they stack up?
Let me put it this way, this won’t be the worst team you’ve seen on the ice for the Blackhawks in the playoffs, but it won’t be the best either. Comparatively, the four teams are fairly close and that is certainly a good sign. The age and PK% are the two things to be concerned about, but even then, there is no evidence that these statistics will derail the team. As long as they keep doing what they’re doing when round one starts up, we should be in for a couple more months of playoff “Hawky” yet again.