5 Microstat Facts About The Chicago Blackhawks Last Season

Sportlogiq is an analytics company that specializes in microstat tracking and data visualization. They track everything one can think of. Dump-ins, dump-outs, loose puck recoveries, scoring chances, passes to the slot, and anything you can think of. The one negative is this data is not available to the public. However, they do have a twitter page that tweets out little tidbits of interesting information on NHL teams. Recently, they tweeted many statistical facts about the 2015-16 Chicago Blackhawks. I will list all of these tweets below, along with explanations of the stat used.

1) @NHLBlackhawks are the team that is least likely to dump-and-chase, as they dump the puck in only 45.8% of the time. NHL Median is 52.2%.

Dump/chase vs OZ Entry: The @NHLBlackhawks had the lowest dump-in rate last season with 45.8%. They were 1st in OZ Possession Time (5:11).

We have two different stats in this tweet. One is looking at how the Blackhawks entered the offensive zone. Did they carry the puck across the blue line to enter the zone, or did they dump the puck in deep and go chase after it? Carrying the puck across the blue line has been shown as the more productive way to gain the offensive zone. This tweet effectively agrees with that notion as they compare the fact that Chicago dumped the puck in less than any other NHL team, and maybe as a result that helped with their league leading offensive zone possession time.

But what is possession time? Currently, the general public uses shots attempts for and against to determine puck possession. The NHL doesn’t track how long each team controls the puck, so unlike in NHL 17 the video game, we have no idea what the actual time of possession is. The way we have to determine possession then is with shots. If Chicago outshoots the opponent 54-37, we can logically say that Chicago was most likely in possession of the puck more than the opponent.

With Sportlogiq, they actual track time of possession. The Chicago Blackhawks had the best offensive zone time of possession in the NHL last season. 

2) @NHLBlackhawks PP Stats (per 2 min.):

  • Scoring-Chances – 1.1(29th)
  •  ON NET Shot Attempts from the Slot – 70.6(29th)
  • Shot Attempts – 3.0(29th)

Here we have power play stats at a per 2 minutes rate. We see basic stats that Chicago was near the bottom of the league in scoring chances, shots on goal from the slot, and shots in general. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin were able to produce on such a high amount of their shot attempts that the Blackhawks still had a very good power play last season. The team would pass up the good shot for a better one. In the end, it was successful for them even though they had such a low shot output. This will be something to watch for next season. Will Chicago be able to succeed on the power play with such poor shot generation two years in a row? Are Kane/Panarin just that good where it won’t matter? Will opponents have Kane/Panarin scouted well enough by now where the low shooting power play won’t be as effective?

The point is that shots lead to goals. Chicago’s power play last season was successful in spite of a low number of shots, scoring chances, and shots on goal from the slot. Is that repeatable?

3) @NHLBlackhawks don’t rely on their defense to gain the OZ. They are 25th in the league in controlled entries by d-men, with 3.1 per game.

This was something that Coach Quenneville wants. He doesn’t like when quality skaters like Trevor Daley or Erik Gustafsson try to gain the zone themselves. Gaining the zone means carrying the puck across the blue line and into the offensive zone. Daley and Gustafsson would often be thrown in the doghouse whenever they tried to gain the zone too often. The logic Q uses is sound and one many coaches use. Q wants the defensemen to move the puck not skate with it. The team is faster when the puck is being passed quickly up the ice and not skated up the ice by a defensemen. This is why mobile, puck moving defensemen are so valued in today’s game. Their mobility allows them to get to the puck area quickly, and their passing skills allows them to quickly transition the puck up ice to a forward on the attack. 

A defensemen carrying the puck into the offensive zone is not considered a safe play. A forward must hang back and cover for the D-man. If the D-man turns the puck over trying to gain the zone, there is now a forward trying to defend a 2-on-2 rush. Or worse, no forward covered for the defenseman who turned the puck over, and now there is a 2-on-1 breakout headed toward Corey Crawford. Coaches normally value not giving a goal up over scoring a goal. Coaches value the safe play. D-men carrying the zone can still be very beneficial. It can catch the opponent off guard, unsure of who to cover, and lead to some grade A scoring chances. However, those chances come with an increase of risk. A risk Q would rather live without. This is why defensemen sometimes dump the puck in when they cross the red line even if there is room to skate. It’s a safe play. No risk involved.

So while it is smart for defensemen to pass instead of skate up ice, there are still scenarios where defensemen can help out in the neutral zone by making a zone entry that could lead to some offensive production. 

4) @NHLBlackhawks are 15th in dump-out rate (20.3%), but are 2nd in DZ possession success rate (73.5%) and 1st in DZ possession plays (209.7).

Dump-outs are when Chicago dumps or flips the puck out of the defense zone. Usually this occurs when the opponent is applying pressure. The offensive pressure leads a Chicago player to flip the puck out as soon as they touch it, usually resulting in the opponent immediately regaining possession of the puck in the neutral zone.

I should mention that some dump outs are beneficial. Take the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. Under Mike Sullivan, they had many successful dump outs that led to offensive chances. This is because under Sullivan, the high forward would leave the defensive zone as soon as Pittsburgh came in possession of the puck. The Pittsburgh defender would dump the puck out of the defensive zone. The Penguin forward that aggressively left the zone early is now in a foot race with the opponent to gain the puck. Sometimes the Penguin forward would get behind the defense for a breakaway opportunity. Sound complicated? Basically instead of passing the puck up ice with control, the Penguins would sometimes dump the puck out so an aggressive, speedy Penguin forward can attempt to beat the opponent to the puck.

Sometimes dump outs can be successful, but usually they aren’t. Normally they are used to alleviate the pressure the opponent is putting on the defending team. The dump out usually results in the opponent quickly gaining the puck back, gaining the offensive zone, and re-applying heavy pressure. It’s can turn into a never ending cycle and is thus considered a negative. Chicago was middle of the road at dump out rate. Not bad but not good either. 

Now we have some weird ones. Chicago was 2nd in DZ possession success rate and 1st in DZ possession plays. According to the Sportslogiq website, possession plays are defined as any play made while in possession of the puck. These plays include all passes, dekes, shots, dump-ins, and dump-outs. DZ possession plays therefore are all passes, dekes, shots, dump-ins, and dump-outs that occur in Chicago’s defensive zone. DZ possession success rate is then how successful the Blackhawks were at all passes, dekes, shots, dump-ins, and dump-outs in the defensive zone. They probably aren’t shooting the puck or dumping the puck in from the D-zone, so we can probably narrow it down to passes, dekes, & dump-outs.

So basically, Chicago attempted more passes, dekes, and dump-outs from the defensive zone than any other NHL team. They were also extremely successful (75.3%) in those passes, dekes, & dump-outs. 

5) Last year, @NHLBlackhawks were 1st in the league at ES Possession Time (14:50 per game), but were 13th at ES slot shot attempts (29.1%).

We talked about offensive zone possession time earlier. Here we see Chicago led the NHL in time of possession during even strength play. This is great as when Chicago is in possession of the puck, the opponent cannot score. Possession is the best defense imaginable because the opponent can’t physically score unless they have the puck (or Chicago scores an own-goal). However, the Blackhawks shot attempt differential has steadily declined over the years. Even though the Blackhawks possessed the puck more than any other team last season at even strength they still finished 9th in total shot attempts for and 16th in total shot attempts against as evidenced in the charts below. Their league leading time of possession has not translated to a league leading Corsi like the LA Kings who lead the NHL in both of the stats below. Chicago was also 20th in goals for and 16th in goals against during 5-on-5 play last year as well. So their league leading possession time did not translate to elite numbers in either shot or goal based stats last season.