Diagnosing Chicago Blackhawks’ Overtime Woes
The common narrative is that Chicago is a “bad overtime team.” It seems reasonable based on record alone, and it’s incredibly difficult not to buy into the notion immediately after still another disappointing overtime loss.
Nevertheless, we need to look a level deeper than just the 0-7 mark. The Blackhawks have scored five goals and allowed seven during 123 minutes of 4-on-4 play this season; this means that at 4-on-4 in general, all of Chicago’s goals have just happened to come in 4-on-4 situations that happened to not be overtime. Put differently, we have a bit of evidence suggesting that the 0-7 record is flukey.
Moving on, the Blackhawks have averaged almost 10 more shots on net than they have allowed per 60 minutes of 4-on-4; this ranks as one of the three largest positive differentials in the NHL. The team’s shooting percentage with four men a side isn’t especially noteworthy, but its save percentage is abnormally low in such situations. Blackhawks goaltenders have saved less than 87 percent of shots at 4-on-4, a number that ranks them in the league’s basement.
Add it all together, and it would seem that we need to revise the earlier statement. Chicago has not been a bad overtime (4-on-4) team. They have been an unlucky overtime team. The stats underlie the reality; the Blackhawks have consistently outplayed their opponents in overtime in 2013-14, but have received terrible goaltending in extra time from Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta and have been scoring at an unsustainably low rate in OT specifically (but not at 4-on-4 in general).
Don’t fall victim to the trite argument via results; as I’ve discussed in the past, goals can be an incredibly misleading measurement of how well a team is truly playing. They are relatively random events that can occur independently of other “game dominant” factors, such as which team has possessed the puck more or had more offensive chances.
So, to diagnose the problem for the Blackhawks once regulation ends: there isn’t one. It may be tempting to say that Chicago is bad in overtime, but that wouldn’t be correct . Swap “bad” for some derivative of “unlucky”, and the statement rings far more true.