The Real Question

I am actually a bit surprised that Joel Quenneville came out so quickly and so definitively to reaffirm Corey Crawford’s status as the starter for Friday night. It’s the right decision of course, but it wouldn’t be out of Q’s methodology to goose Crow a bit by letting it dangle until the morning skate tomorrow. Once a year it seems like Q would throw the starting job up in the air for a week or two, and Crow would almost always take it back. Even in 2013, Ray Emery got a week’s worth of starts while Crow was healthy, as almost a tease. Of course, behind that team, any of you could have started and it probably would have worked out all right during the regular season.

The real question Q should be asking himself, and the rest of the team for that matter, is why they’re depending on their goalie so much.

The rest of the Triumvirate has told me to just resign myself to this fate (COOAACCHHHH), and that the Hawks are just going to be what’s called a high-event team from here on out. For those who don’t know, that means they’re going to take a lot of shots, but they’re going to give up a ton too. I don’t know that you can get out of the Western Conference doing that.

At least I did, until I looked it up. Other than the 2012 Kings, who got a pretty cozy draw, the last five teams to come out of the West gave up over 29 shots per game. The 2009 Red Wings gave up over 28. So maybe you can’t suppress you’re way out of the West solely.

Still, there’s a difference between giving up 30 in a game, and giving up 15 and 17 in the 3rd period and OT, which the Hawks managed last night. Giving up 15 shots a period is going to cause some problems.

We’ve tried analyzing it various times over the season, but basically across the board that amount of shots and attempts each d-man on the Hawks sees against has gone up about 3-4 each per 60 this season. Because they’ve gone up the exact amount each, that means the additional attempts they’re giving up are all going through to the net. It would lead you to believe they’re of higher quality chances instead of fadeaway jumpers from the blue line.

And that is true to an extent. If you check out the team Hextally on War On Ice, the Hawks are giving up slightly above average the league rate of shots in the home-plate area, i.e. between the circles. They were slightly below average last year.

The numbers are great, but why is that happening? We could point to the turnovers in their own zone that were much more numerous than previous seasons as Oduya struggled for much of the year, not really having a third pairing, the forwards shirking responsibility, and the rest. I’m not sure that was the case last night. It’s one game, and it could be that the Preds, a pretty good possession team in their own right with about four or five d-men who can push the play, played a very good game and just came up short. Which doesn’t bode well for them for the rest of the series, because we can see where the Hawks can improve but I’m not sure where Nashville can.

Still, we’ve seen the Hawks do it, and recently. And while they may get away with high-event games against the Preds because they have a significant advantage in offensive talent, it may not work that way in later rounds. But then it might, it’s just going to be stressful as all get-out. While we may fear that Crow can’t make 35 saves a night four out of seven times for four rounds, you’d be hard pressed to find a goalie in the West who has proven he can. The one with the best case might actually be Jonas Hiller, and he only did it for two rounds in ’09. Maybe this is just the path the Hawks are going to have to walk, and we’ll need a lot of heartburn relief.

-As pointed out to me by McClure today in a conversation, it is pretty funny that there is a debate over who the Hawks should start, meanwhile Pekka Rinne gave up three goals in a period (one of them bad) to blow a 3-0 lead and yet no one is calling for Carter Hutton. No, Hutton has never put on the performance that Darling has basically all year. But Rinne’s playoff pedigree simply doesn’t match Crow’s either. Funny how this works.

  • Matt

    Did you read the article from Ben Arledge on ESPN? He said the Blackhawks are the only playoff team this year to be above the Stanley Cup threshold in four key categories — Corsi-for-close, goaltending, playoff experience (the Hawks are WAY ahead of the field on this one), and penalty kill. Not sure how to treat the differences between shot suppression and Corsi, but it gave me a little more confidence in the team’s chances.

    Either way, it’s a good read.

    • Nic Neill

      Their Corsi For % is high because they generate shots at a higher clip than they give them up. Since January they have a 56.0 CorsiFor/60 and a 50.7 CorsiAgainst/60 (score-adjusted). That CA/60 is actually good for 10th in the league since January. Their FenwickAgainst/60 is 14th and ShotsAgainst/60 is 20th, so maybe they are blocking fewer shots than normal or they are giving up better quality attempts (oh for accurate location data).

      • ZigZags82

        Which is still pretty damn good. Nice reassuring post on either end.

  • Oregon_hawk

    I despise ‘give-a-shit’ or ‘compete-level’ based arguments, but this year, I rarely recall seeing the hawks get out of 4th gear. I honestly think their give-a-shit meter was very low, after a cup and a WCF exit. They knew they could make the playoffs, they knew there would be no easy outs.
    The Hawks elevate their game in the playoffs – everyone does.
    But, I agree that a key metric to follow will be those shots against. Can’t get out-shot regularly and expect success.

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      The down side to winning two cups in four years and four conference finals in six years, is that when you lose, everyone assumes it’s your fault. No one wants to give the other team credit.

      • 334Rules

        This. There’s no doubt that the current level of parity among the Western Conference playoff teams is incredible. There is no dominant team, and yet all the so-called experts are still leaning towards the Hawks. Despite the cliche that you can’t simply “throw the switch” when you need a win, the Hawks have been doing just that for 5+ years. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.

        • ZigZags82

          All the more reason to have faith in them. Long way to go but plenty of time to improve and plug along for these next 2 months.

        • Sopel the catfish

          Yup, it’s never truly easy. I think the Hawks can just throw the switch, however the real problem arises when the other team also throws on their switch, and then it becomes a contest about who has the biggest switch and how hard they can throw it. Reminds of like how God picks a side in football games based on which team prayed harder.

  • Interesting question in regards to Rinne, especially since he looked pretty shaky last night.

    On a related note, has Bridgestone Arena had a reputation for the crazy board bounces we were seeing last night? It’s very possible I’ve missed that conversation in the past, but I don’t remember it ever being compared to places like Joe Louis Arena in that regard.

    • mazer_rackham

      It looked like the Preds were surprised by a few of the crazy caroms, which would suggest it isn’t a common thing. The Wings know their boards are lively and adjust their play for it.

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Darling faced 42 shots against and gave up zip. That is an incredible performance, but unsustainable. Make him face 42 again and he may give up 5.

    Nash set a franchise record last night for SOG in a playoff game. (54)
    54 shots against, and you win? That’s a music city miracle.

    • arlingtonrob

      It’s a bigger “miracle” that Nashville hit the net 54 times, not that the Hawks won a playoff game.

  • As an addendum to Sam’s larger point, In 2010, there were 10 teams that played above an 110 event pace, the Hawks not being one of them as the league’s top shot suppression team (44.9CA/60). This year there are 15 teams playing above that pace, and that mark would lead this year by a full point.

    Not that 10+ shots in any period is a good idea, but the league as a whole is putting more pucks at the net. And given this new context of the league, 2010 might not be a realistic standard to hold this team to anymore. It was dominant in a way that very few teams in the expansion era will possibly ever touch.

    • Nic Neill

      So the league average of shot attempts is up, but scoring is down?

      Goalies, man.

      • ZigZags82

        I do think shot attempts are actually up, but I don’t have the stuff on hand.

  • jordyhawk

    Darling had me thinking of young Ken Dryden way back when–fabulous performance. That said, there isn’t anyone with a hockey brain (other than the wags trying to stir the pot) who wouldn’t go straight back to CC for game 2.

  • Pilotefan

    Re: Rinne’s notices vs. Crow’s.
    Pred’s PR machine ( thus Foley’s cheatsheet ) reflects years of Rinne, Weber and Carrie Fisher. Hawks machine has done years of Kane, Toews, Keith, Hossa etc. Crow pops up when people want him gone, if he plays great they talk about everyone but him. F-bomb parade speech didn’t endear him to the starmaking machinery.
    The reality that he has eaten most every other goaler’s lunch in a 7 game series doesn’t register. Thank God LA didn’t get in so we don’t have to listen to some crapezoid announcer tell us the Kings have the advantage because the sun shines out of Quick’s butt.
    Crawford just wins.

  • Preacher

    2 truths (maybe) to consider: 1) Are the Hawks as good, position by position, as they’ve been in the past? I don’t think so (though I’m not looking at any numbers so that’s not definitive). We’ve seen several players from ’13 depart—are the guys who’ve replaced them as good as those ’13 versions?
    2) Other teams are better. This is certainly true as most other teams have attempted to copy the Hawks’ system and match the type of players in that system. And given how tight all the matchups (in the West especially) are, it’s clear the Hawks are not as far above the field as they used to be.
    If both 1 AND 2 are true, then, yeah, “stressful as all get-out” is pretty much what we’re looking at for every game, every round. This will not be fun.

    • ZigZags82

      I actually find the stress to be very fun. Means we’re winning and advancing further and further.

    • 1985AH1985

      I’m not sure I agree with this. If you look at 2013 team. I think the forwards are better now with Richards/Tuevo/Vermette vs Handzus/Bollig/Smith. Defense is better in 2013 because of Leddy and Rosival not being useless, no question. I’ll take this years Crawford (last night not withstanding) vs 2013 Crawford. Overall I think the talent is there, it’s just the lack of a dependable 3rd pair is really hurting them.

      • T.M.

        Vermette’s in the doghouse, so he can’t be considered

  • To Saad be the glory

    Damn Crawstink!!

    • To Saad be the glory

      Seriously,non issue. Crawford starts,game on.

  • rhodes

    I’ll be looking to see how Q uses his defensemen moving forward. Is he going to gravitate more toward using just four D-men, or is he going to work some combination of Kimmo-Rosi-Rundblad-Cumiskey into the game with more meaningful minutes?

    I don’t have a lot of confidence at the moment in those bottom four guys—at varying degrees and for different reasons. But, I’m not sure Q can get away with going with just four D men this early and make it all the way through the Western conference finals. It’s going to be a long, hard grind to get that far. My feeling is that Kimmo and Rundblad have the most potential to fill any gaps.

    My bigger fear is that Q thinks he really has five D-men, the 5th being Rosi.

  • footeau

    Unreal, I just can’t believe coach Q would start Crawford over Darling in the next game. Nine goalies played last night and the one with the worst save % is going to play and the one with the best save % and who was the NHL #1 star of the night is going to sit It is the playoffs you go with who is playing well not wait and see if someone can find their game or not. Another mistake Q

    • TitanTransistor

      Nah, Crawford deserves a longer leash than one bad period. He’s pretty much the only reason the Blackhawks are even in the playoffs this year to begin with.

      • rhodes

        Completely agree. Every goalie has the potential to roll out a stinker–not that Crow was even as bad as the 3-0 1st period lead might suggest. Darling’s going to shit the bed one night, too. He just hasn’t, yet.

        You can’t fault pulling him in that situation, but you absolutely start him in game #2.

        • YoAdrienne

          Crow wasn’t the only stinker, either. Lots of blame to go around for those 3 goals. I strongly suspect Q pulled him more to motivate the skaters than because he was unhappy with Crow.

          • rhodes

            True. I think it was a bit of both. Goalies at times get pulled because the guys in front of them need a kick in the ass.

          • TitanTransistor

            After the game, Q said he pulled Crow both to motivate the troops, and because he disliked the goals against.

            I don’t really care why he pulled him. The important thing is putting him back in.

    • Jane Doe

      Spot on analysis using a sample size of one game.

    • Espo35Mask

      You are crazy. It was one game. The last third of the season, Crow has been more consitant and one of the best in the league. Glad Darling had a huge game and nice to know if he’s need later he at least has one game of experience, but Corey is no question the better call for game two.

  • mightymikeD

    I popped over to say hello at On The Forecheck this morning, and there was a wee bit of hand-wringing about Rinne but by-and-large they were all backing “Their Guy” (as they should). No ALL CAPS YELLS FOR DAT STINKIN BUM TO BE TRADED MY FRENT. Weirdly, there seemed to be a lot of folk picking Jones as the Goat. To my eyes he looked bloody excellent.

    • rhodes

      Was there any finger pointing at the refs? Cause I can see how the Preds fans might feel a bit burned by some of the calls or lack thereof.

      • mightymikeD

        lots of fury. Lots and lots. Mostly about the Beck no-call (which, TBH, I assumed was a penalty until I saw the slo-mo.. and I think the zebras actually got it right)

      • YoAdrienne

        I took a peek this afternoon. I never saw so much whining in my life. I
        was kind of embarrassed for them. The same goes for the way they were
        going after Shaw. Of course, that just tells one that Shawzie was doing
        his job as team pest.

        • rhodes

          Yeah, the blame the refs theme is always taken too far. I thought the refs were very inconsistent with the calls last night—with some weak calls being made and some pretty egregious ones being let go (Nordstrom’s hit from behind on Weber comes to mind)—but, these things usually have a way of evening out over a game or series.

          You have to admit, though, Shaw is really becoming quite the little diver. This is kind of embarrassing in itself. He better tone that down (or get much better at it) or he’s going to get an embellishment call. He’s been fined once already this year. Personally, I hate that kind of play. Taken too far, you end up at international soccer, which is insufferable to watch because of the players playing the refs.

  • TitanTransistor

    Interesting. Mark Lazerus on marek and wyshynski today predicted the winner of the Blues vs Wild series would be the team to come out the West.

    He’s a Blackhawks beat, right?

    • JJNDadTo4

      yes he is

    • ZigZags82

      Obviously just because he’s Blackhawks beat, doesn’t mean he won’t pick them. I would agree that the 2nd round winner of the Central side will come out of the West.

    • Guest

      Interesting. TitanTransistor on the Commited Indian the other day predicted the winner of the Hawks/Preds series would be the Preds and a short series.

      He’s a Blackhawks fan, right?

  • meme gene okerlund

    Slak mentioned it on twitter, and maybe it’s too simplistic, or maybe it’s wrong to word it so flatly in such unscientific terms on a post that calls up some important sabermetric information.

    But the Preds threw some haymakers last night and still couldn’t do it. This team definitely has a different vibe than when Omar Little felt a little more applicable, but to be up 1-0 after giving up 54 shots says something.

  • footeau

    The Crawford files.

    Rather then say anything bad I will just state the facts and
    let the smart people figure it out. The Blackhawks drafted Crawford in 2003 he
    played in the minors for a couple years and came up in 2005-06 played 2 games
    and went right back down, the following season never made it up, not even for
    one game in 2007-08 he came up play 5 games and went right back down, the next
    season once again was not good enough to make it back up even for a game. Ok
    lets be fair sometimes it takes a player awhile to find their game and
    sometimes longer for a goaltender. So that’s it, in 2009-10 he is set to be our
    backup. Cristobal Huet is going to be the starter and Cory Crawford is the
    backup, and some guy no one really ever heard of Atti Niemi who was never drafted and was a part time
    Zamboni driver in Finland was going to
    handle things in Rockford. Crawford played one game yes ONE game and was sent
    down to the minors, he was not even good enough to be Huet’s backup. The next
    year the Blackhawks tell Crawford if he does not make the team this year they
    will no longer seek his services and will look elsewhere. OK now we lose both goaltenders,
    one sucks and one we lose as a free agent, we have to dismantle half the team
    and our back is against the wall with the salary cap and Crawford is a cheap
    way out and becomes the starter out of necessity. Now please remember he is
    playing behind the best defense in the league, not that hard to be good when
    your team is only giving up 20 to 25 shots against and almost no odd man rushes
    or breakaways, just be in position and you will make the save. So his first
    year in the playoffs wow does he blow it, we lose 3 games in overtime and 2 of
    them were from shots at the blue line yes 80 feet out and no one in front of
    him, just fucking sad. The next year we lose another that we should have had, yes
    Cory puts up a wonderful .893 save %. OK 2013 we win the cup Crawford is
    starting to play a little better, the Blackhawks may just have their best
    defense ever and an offense that is so good no matter how many soft goals
    Crawford lets in they can overcome it and win. Last year in the 2013-14
    playoffs, once again behind a great team, Crawford only puts up a .912 save%
    and a 2.53 goals against, hardly impressive numbers. Hardly the numbers of an
    elite goaltender matter of fact he has never had elite numbers, look around the
    league at all the goaltenders that would face 10 or more shots per game against
    them and not just the shots, but shots from prime scoring areas and all the odd
    man rushes or breakaways things that he never had to deal with till this year
    and their numbers are better or the same, now that’s the elite goaltenders not
    Crawford. This year Raanta and Darling have played in over 30 games and both
    have a better save% and better goals against average behind the same team, so
    it seems anyone even rookies are elite goaltenders when they play behind our
    defense. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a sports commentator say,
    wow I bet Cory wishes he had that one back or man he has to make those saves or
    yeah it’s another soft one that Cory should have had. Yes he has gotten a
    little better over the last 13 years but he will never be a elite goaltender
    that carries the team in the long run its always been the team that carries
    him, and if there is anyone out there that really believes he is that fucking
    great please give me some of what you are smoking

    • meme gene okerlund

      That’s not what happened in 2010. Niemi was the backup because he was cheaper. Crawford was always the better prospect.

      • footeau

        that is exactly what happen in 2010 Cory could not make it thats why the hawks told him the folling year it was his very last hance to make to team

        • JJNDadTo4

          WRONG!!!! Niemi had no options left. Crawford did. That is the reason Niemi played and Crow was sent down.

          • footeau

            you are wrong sir

      • footeau

        you are very wrong

    • meme gene okerlund

      Also, this: ¶

    • rhodes

      My intuition tells me you are not serious and are just trolling for fun. But, if not, then I feel like I have just seen a unicorn. I have heard that you people exist, but I have never believed it.

      • JJNDadTo4

        Factually incorrect to boot!! But such is a troll

    • rhodes

      Are you trying to say that Crawford is a very good goal tender, just not an “elite” goal tender? Or are you saying that Darling is a better goal tender (as you alluded to in a previous comment)? Or could you be saying that Crawford just sucks is being propped up by a good team?

      All very different things, of course.

      • footeau

        i am tierd of everyone thinking he is so great he has had a great D in front of him he has been way better this year then in the past and is a good goalie just not what everyone hypes him to be

  • footeau

    The Crawford files.

    Rather then say anything bad I will just state the facts and
    let the smart people figure it out. The Blackhawks drafted Crawford in 2003 he
    played in the minors for a couple years and came up in 2005-06 played 2 games
    and went right back down, the following season never made it up, not even for
    one game in 2007-08 he came up play 5 games and went right back down, the next
    season once again was not good enough to make it back up even for a game. Ok
    lets be fair sometimes it takes a player awhile to find their game and
    sometimes longer for a goaltender. So that’s it, in 2009-10 he is set to be our
    backup. Cristobal Huet is going to be the starter and Cory Crawford is the
    backup, and some guy no one really ever heard of Atti Niemi who was never drafted and was a part time
    Zamboni driver in Finland was going to
    handle things in Rockford. Crawford played one game yes ONE game and was sent
    down to the minors, he was not even good enough to be Huet’s backup. The next
    year the Blackhawks tell Crawford if he does not make the team this year they
    will no longer seek his services and will look elsewhere. OK now we lose both
    goaltenders, one sucks and one we lose as a free agent, we have to dismantle
    half the team and our back is against the wall with the salary cap and Crawford
    is a cheap way out and becomes the starter out of necessity. Now please
    remember he is playing behind the best defense in the league, not that hard to
    be good when your team is only giving up 20 to 25 shots against and almost no
    odd man rushes or breakaways, just be in position and you will make the save.
    So his first year in the playoffs wow does he blow it, we lose 3 games in
    overtime and 2 of them were from shots at the blue line yes 80 feet out and no
    one in front of him, just fucking sad. The next year we lose another that we
    should have had, yes Cory puts up a wonderful .893 save %. OK 2013 we win the
    cup Crawford is starting to play a little better, the Blackhawks may just have
    their best defense ever and an offense that is so good no matter how many soft
    goals Crawford lets in they can overcome it and win. Last year in the 2013-14
    playoffs, once again behind a great team, Crawford only puts up a .912 save%
    and a 2.53 goals against, hardly impressive numbers. Hardly the numbers of an
    elite goaltender matter of fact he has never had elite numbers, look around the
    league at all the goaltenders that would face 10 or more shots per game against
    them and not just the shots, but shots from prime scoring areas and all the odd
    man rushes or breakaways things that he never had to deal with till this year
    and their numbers are better or the same, now that’s the elite goaltenders not
    Crawford. This year Raanta and Darling have played in over 30 games and both
    have a better save% and better goals against average behind the same team, so
    it seems anyone even rookies are elite goaltenders when they play behind our
    defense. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a sports commentator say,
    wow I bet Cory wishes he had that one back or man he has to make those saves or
    yeah it’s another soft one that Cory should have had. Yes he has gotten a
    little better over the last 13 years but he will never be a elite goaltender that
    carries the team in the long run its always been the team that carries him, and
    if there is anyone out there that really believes he is that fucking great
    please give me some of what you are smoking

    • Dan Treadwell

      Wrong. Crawfords first playoffs was against Vancouver in 2011 and he was brilliant in that series. Yes, he shit the bed in 2012 against Phoenix. Basically, you’re nitpicking, and don’t understand hockey, or sports in general. Easier for backups to put up good numbers with a small sample size. Could Raanta or Darling keep up their pace over 60 games? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll give you that Crow isn’t “elite”, as I truly don’t believe there is a prototypical elite goalie in the game today, with the exception of possibly Price. Crow’s save % and GAA were in the top half dozen for qualified starters, and that’s playing behind a very suspect defense, which the Hawks have had for two seasons now. Crow, if anything, is a model of consistency. You know that on almost any given night if the Hawks score 3 goals they’re going to win 90%+ of the time Crow is in net. I’ve seen Quick, Rinne, Rask and others all have horrible periods, games and series. I do think he’s overpaid, and I do think Stan should listen to offers for Crow this summer to free up much needed cap space, but you’re delusional if you think just any goalie can waltz in here and start winning cups.

    • Jane Doe

      You were probably screaming for Emery to start the playoffs in ’13.

  • rhodes

    Watching the Blues in last 1:15 of their home loss against the Wild…. Wild get an empty netter to go up 3-1. On the ensuing face off, Backes head butts and then cross checks the opposing center at the drop of the puck—out of frustration. Doesn’t even look at the puck. CAPTAIN!! 2 minute minor.

    In the next 10 seconds of play, Ott slashes and then intentionally high sticks an Wild player. 10 minute misconduct.

    • JJNDadTo4

      River Scum do what River Scum will do!!!

  • Bmichaelc

    Simply a great article.

  • bjphawkfan

    Q sucks as a coach. He cannot teach fundamentals like passing, forecheck, hitting and defense. How do you expect him to pick the right goaltender. I pray he gets fired after the season.