As shooting chances run dry, Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik searches for sparkBen Popeon November 17, 2021 at 9:49 pm

Dominik Kubalik hasn’t produced as his typical pace so far this season. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Kubalik’s shot frequency, accuracy and danger have all decreased this season as he endures a nine-game goal drought.

SEATTLE — In five of his 15 games this season (entering Wednesday), Dominik Kubalik hasn’t recorded a shot on goal at even strength. In six of his 15 games, Kubalik has recorded one or fewer shots on goal in all situations.

“That’s not a good sign for a shooter,” the Blackhawks wing admitted Tuesday.

So what’s the solution?

“I’ve just got to find a way to be in those shooting positions,” Kubalik said. “[I need to] be around the net, [even] when it hurts there but you can have easy goals… [I need] this mindset that if I have a chance, the first thing I should be looking for is to shoot it.”

After scoring in each of the Hawks’ first two games this season, Kubalik entered Wednesday with only one goal since, stuck in a nine-game goal drought.

Only one of those three total games happened at even strength, too, and all of his even-strength shooting analytics are down. His attempts-per-60-minutes rate has decreased from 15.6 last season to 12.4 this season.

The attempts he does take are less dangerous: Only 48.8% have been scoring chances, versus 63.7% and 58.7% his first two seasons. And his shots are less accurate: Only 43.9% have made it on goal, versus 58.5% and 64.0% his first two seasons.

Interim coach Derek King sat down one-on-one with Kubalik on Saturday to show him videos of shifts where he played well, hoping to boost his confidence and pull his mind away from his scoring troubles.

“It helped me a lot to see some different things than shooting,” Kubalik said. “When I saw the videos, I felt like I was doing the right things, so that’s good — even away from the puck, which is my problem. [I’m] just getting my legs going, [trying to] be on the forecheck, be physical, [do] those things I just need to do automatically every shift. There are lots of positive things and just have to build off that.”

“He’s like, ‘Ah, I’ve got to score,'” King added. “[I told him] he’ll score because it’s like riding the bike. You know how to ride the bike. If you don’t ride for 10 years, you still know how. He knows how to score goals.”

Last Friday, Kubalik missed two golden chances in alone against Coyotes goalie Scott Wedgewood, hitting the crossbar on a high-glove early shot on the first chance and finding no room along the ice between Wedgewood’s pads on the second.

Kubalik has been stopped while trying to go five-hole often this season, and he joked about friend calling him after Friday to say, “It’s enough.”

“I can say you guys are not going to see the five-hole for a long time now,” he said Tuesday with a smile.

Part of that might be opposing goalies learning his tendencies better. That tends to happen when someone starts their career by scoring at a pace only Jonathan Toews and Artemi Panarin have matched in recent Hawks history.

Kubalik knows it’s his duty to overcome that, though. And with the Hawks sitting second-to-last in the NHL in even-strength goals entering Wednesday (with 20 in 15 games), the team would certainly benefit if he could.

“The good goal-scorers always find a way,” he said. “Everybody knows that [Alex] Ovechkin is going to shoot the one-timer on the power play. It still goes in. [It still] looks easy. I’ve just got to find a way to make it look easy, too.”

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