Moral victories are nice, but the longer a team has to settle for them, the less they mean.
The Blackhawks remained stuck at one point in their last nine games and theyve pretty much used up all their mulligans in the Western Conference playoff standings. No, they wont be out of it by the time they take the ice against the NHLs best team Thursday at Madison Square Garden. But who would have thought at the start of this trip that by the time they return to the United Center Sunday morning, they just might be?
The penalty kill held the leagues second-ranked power play off the board in three chances. The compete level and overall defensive coverage was more consistent. They rallied twice from one-goal deficits in a tough arena to tie.
But none of that mattered when Dylan Olsen couldnt get a puck out of the Hawks zone with about six minutes left. Nashville worked it around to Ryan Ellis, who wound up from the point for the second time in the game and the rubber wound up behind Ray Emery. The first time, it was tipped-in by Nick Spaling for a 2-1 Preds lead. This time, it glanced off Duncan Keiths stick, but Emery still had a clear look and maybe time to adjust the deflection.
The moral victory is that Emery was otherwise very good. The fact that a big save eluded him meant the Hawks would go without a victory again when they couldnt rally back a third time. The Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane line that Joel Quenneville put together was very good. The reality is it didnt get on the scoresheet despite heavy offensive pressure and accounting for 10 of the teams 32 shots.
The Hawks played hard and with urgency. When they skated off, their situation became more urgent.
In five of the seven games so far on this trip, the Hawks have found themselves tied in the third period. In another, they entered the third down just one goal. Theyve been close, but been unable to finish. It wound up being another night that didnt quiet those wondering if they are finished.
As they head to New York, that Giants analogy they used a week ago after the G-men won the Super Bowl despite sporting a 7-7 record late in the season could inspire a trip to Tom Coughlins office. The longer the wait becomes to draw that comparison, no matter the effort, the harder it is to believe it could happen the same way without the results.