Yes, it’s only been one game. But it’s started already . And if the Hawks make a long run out of this spring (and summer, hopefully), then this is going to get ceaselessly tiresome. It already has in some respects. And that’s the “flat” storyline.
It’s been everywhere this morning, just look
@macandspiegs at 9:Hawks play flat, but gorgeous OT goal puts them up 1-0. Wrigley renovation plans unveiled further, Cubs/Sox look awful.
— Matt Spiegel (@MattSpiegel670) May 1, 2013
Blackhawks dodge big bullet, take Game 1 in OT win over the Wild – My Fox Chicago:bit.ly/12VC8OR
— Al Cimaglia (@AlCimaglia) May 1, 2013
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) May 1, 2013
All of these at one point or another attribute the Hawks’ uneven first period to the nebulous term of “flatness”, either explicitly or implied. Not to mention the wailing and gnashing of teeth on Twitter during the actual event. And because the term is so vague, it reeks of a lack of a clear point of view. “Well, they didn’t come out and win the Cup in the first period of the first game of the playoffs, so I guess they’re flat. Why? Who knows.”
This is not to say the first period should be documented in the Art Institute any time soon. Crawford should have had the Clutterbuck goal no doubt, but rather than just say the Hawks were “flat” or “lacked jump”, perhaps a keener eye would have noticed the Wild stacking three men on their own blue line to prevent easy entry to the zone, or hoisting their clearing attempts up and over the Hawk defensemen to keep themselves from being hemmed in. It’s not a coincidence that both goals were scored off of rushes, one at even strength, and one on a power play. As soon as the Hawks were able to get isolation matchups against individual Wild defenders, they were made to pay, plain and simple.
No, what was on display was not a flat team, it was a patient and mature team allowing an overmatched opponent show their hand first with how they were going to play. This patience was reflected in Joel Quenneville’s distribution of ice time in a 75 minute game, as well as his complete avoidance of matching up against Mike Yeo and the Wild. Because he didn’t have to.
The Wild came in and played the type of game they wanted to play, and got an inspired effort from a spot-starting goaltender, and still got blown out of the building in every respect but the scoreboard. The Corsi numbers for the game are nearly a complete whitewashing up and down both lineups. It was obvious from the start that the Wild wanted to limit any opportunities against, especially with a backup put into a disadvantaged position, and still allowed the Hawks to attempt 68 shots at even strength to their own 33.
A lack of crispness and not ending a game in the first five minutes does not a “flat” team make, and it’s high time to start asking for a little bit more thought from the hockey consumer than was done in years past, both media and fans. There are actual concrete reasons why a team looks out of sorts in any game, it’s not always lack of effort. In fact, it’s almost NEVER lack of effort. It’s intellectually disingenuous to constantly report on the will to compete of each and every COMBATANT in the playoffs and still trot out the “flat” reasoning for a lack of execution. These two things are mutually exclusive. The game has evolved and so has the way it is analyzed, and more should be demanded of its coverage.