There are no moral victories this late in the NHL season.
Before the 12th-place Toronto Maple Leafs took to the ice on Saturday night, they knew the eighth-place Washington Capitals had beaten the Boston Bruins. They knew they had fallen seven points behind the Capitals.
They knew they had the difficult task of beating a red-hot Ilya Bryzgalov and the Philadelphia Flyers to remain within striking distance of the Capitals, and then board a charter bound for Washington, D.C. to play the Capitals at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Not only is this a swift and problematical turnaround, the Maple Leafs will lose an hour on spring forward to daylight savings time and lose another 60 minutes to make the bus ride from Dulles International Airport to their downtown Washington hotel.
Toronto has sealed its fate with a horrible 15-game slide that now has gone to 2-11-2. But if the Maple Leafs lose to the Capitals in regulation, overtime or a shootout on Sunday, they can kiss goodbye their razor-slim playoff hopes goodbye for an embarrassing seventh consecutive season.
The Maple Leafs not only outshot the Flyers 29-27 in the 1-0 shootout loss, they out-chanced their opponents. But they also aided Bryzgalov's cause. Whether it's bad luck or a lack of finish around the goal, they missed some glorious scoring chances.
Just like Tyler Bozak hit teammate Tim Connolly's skate with an open net late in the 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin and Phil Kessel all missed open nets in regulation time against the Flyers. In overtime, Bryzgalov stopped Kessel on a breakaway to push his shutout streak to 136 minutes and 13 seconds.
What has been evident, however, in the eight days and four games since Randy Carlyle replaced Ron Wilson behind the Maple Leafs bench, the compete level and urgency in Toronto's game has improved.
They have played much better in the short term to once again give promise to next season. We know the Maple Leafs faithful has heard this song before, but maybe this time will be different.
Yes, Toronto continues to make mistakes. But the work ethic has improved and the team defence has progressed.
These coaching changes are not an exact science. The Carlyle-for-Wilson move was the eighth change behind an NHL bench this season, and only Ken Hitchcock with the St. Louis Blues and Darryl Sutter with the Los Angeles Kings made an immediate impact. But while Hitchcock and the Blues have soared to first overall status, the Kings have slumped and are no sure thing to make the playoffs.
Here are the four-game starts for each new NHL coach this season as well as their overall record.
Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis (3-0-1) 38-11-7
Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim (1-2-1) 22-17-6
Dale Hunter, Washington (1-3-0) 22-19-5
Kirk Muller, Carolina (0-4-0) 18-14-11
Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles (3-0-1) 16-11-8
Randy Cunneyworth, Montreal (0-4-0) 13-20-3
Todd Richards, Columbus (2-2-0) 11-14-2
Randy Carlyle, Toronto (1-2-1) 1-2-1
The Maple Leafs have 14 games remaining in the final four weeks of the regular season. They have to check in with a minimum 22 points to have a hope. We don't see any hope of jumping over four teams in the East.
But they do have more hope with Carlyle behind the bench than if Wilson was still there.
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