Game 9 Statcap: Lightning 6, Blackhawks 5 (OT)

The Chicago Blackhawks are an elite puck possession team, and they proved it again against the Lightning, carrying the play for much of the night, leading in shots, shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, and just about every possession metric you could imagine.

Fortunately, for the Lightning, their forward group (and even some defensemen) are so skilled, they’re capable of — within a one-game sample at least — turning a relatively small amount of time on attack into goals, and so this game was a back-and-forth affair where the Lightning converted on their opportunities and Chicago converted on theirs, albeit at a much lower rate since they had so many more.

As you can see from the Fenwick graph below, the Lightning hung around with the ‘Hawks for the first few minutes of the first period, but after that, it was all Chicago the rest of the way. After Tampa’s second goal, Chicago pressed even harder and widened their possession gap through the second and third periods even as both teams traded highlight reel goals. Give the ‘Hawks credit for sticking to their possession system, but one thing sorely lacking for them tonight was their usual tight defensive coverage. The Bolts penetrated the Chicago zone with ease when given the chance to carry the puck and created an inordinately high amount of scoring chances considering how little they had the puck.

The final chance count was actually 15-14 in favor of the Bolts, including the lone scoring chance during the 4v4 overtime period — Martin St. Louis’ rebound shot into an empty net with ‘Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin flailing around in his crease. Chicago generated 5 of their 14 chances on their power play, but were also a little too content to let their forwards and defensemen drift into the offensive zone when on the man advantage. Traditionally, this would be good scouting and strategy against a Lightning club that uses bottom-6 grinders exclusively on the penalty kill and always looks to clear rather than create shorthanded offense, but Cooper mixes his PK duos and has apparently given the forwards the greenlight to pick their spots and attack. BJ Crombeen fed a nice pass to Nate Thompson on a shorthanded 2on1 break created as Chicago committed too deep into Tampa’s zone and the Bolts already have their 2nd shorthanded goal on the year just 9 games into the season.

Despite taking a hard shot from Marian Hossa off his foot and requiring some attention on the bench, Victor Hedman was an absolute force the entire game and especially in the third period. He finished with a goal (the game-tier in the third) and an assist and seemed to find another level skating with the puck through the neutral zone to enter the offensive third, start a rush, or establish possession, something the Lightning usually lack from their blue line. He finished the night +7/-2 in even strength scoring chance differential playing mostly against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa and if he continues to progress his offensive game, the Lightning will certainly be better off.

As for the ‘Hawks, the Bolts did a very nice job staying even with the top-heavy part of the lineup — the Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith pairing and the top-6 forward group — and attacked the bottom-6 and bottom pairing relentlessly. Johnny Oduya and Michal Roszival had an absolutely brutal game. Oduya finished +2/-8 in chances and Roszival wasn’t much better at +1/-5. And both made horrific mistakes on Tampa Bay goals that kept the Bolts in the game. Leveraging home ice is a big concern for head coaches in the NHL and Jon Cooper was able to do that by exploiting the few weaknesses in the Chicago lineup.

Fenwick (Unblocked Shots) Timeline via Extra Skater

Following is the scoring chance and zone event data we tracked for this game that is, we believe, exclusive to Bolt Statistics:

Lightning Totals

Scoring Chances

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Zone Entries (Even-Strength)

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Zone Exits (Even-Strength)

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Game Logs

Scoring Chances

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Zone Entries (Even-Strength)

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Zone Exits (Even-Strength)

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We’d like to acknowledge utilizing data from the game report produced by Extra Skater and the Scoring Chances and Zone Entry Nexus applications created by Josh Weissbock.

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