It was an emotional evening on Sunday at the United Center, where the Blackhawks hosted Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
Former Blackhawks center and current radio broadcaster Troy Murray, who's battling cancer, was celebrated throughout the night in his first public appearance since the diagnosis in August. On the purple carpet event, the ceremonial puck drop, the TV and radio broadcasts, during the commercial timeouts, you name it: Chicago showered Murray with love and support.
"He's obviously been around for the whole time I've been here," Patrick Kane said. "Just a fun guy to see in the locker room and talk to about hockey and just life in general. Always got a smile on his face, positive attitude. You can see him out there tonight, he was just smiling, happy. He seems like he was grateful to be out there. It was great to see him."
Nobody can put a smile on your face quicker than Troy, which made the 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks sting even more.
"I wish we were able to get a win for him," Connor Murphy said. "We said it before the game, we were playing for him and for everyone battling, present and past. It's an emotional night, seeing everyone out here supporting him and supporting everyone with their signs, who they're fighting for. It's a great thing that he was able to come out today. We've all been thinking of him. He's been in our prayers for months now. It's really awesome to see his face here."
The frustrating part is that the Blackhawks did everything but win the hockey game.
Just look at the numbers:
- The Blackhawks had 8:14 of offensive zone possession time, according to Sportlogiq. The Sharks had 4:04.
- The Blackhawks set a new season-high in shot attempts (76) and scoring chances (38), according to Natural Stat Trick. They allowed only 22 shots on goal, which was their second-fewest in a game this season.
- The Blackhawks had an expected Goals For of 2.48. The Sharks had an expected Goals For of 2.01.
"Honestly, I think our game today was probably the best hockey game we’ve played all year for three periods," interim head coach Derek King said. "I’ll take that every night. If we play like that for three periods, I’ll take that."
It's hard to disagree, which sounds funny to say considering his team scored zero goals. But the reality is, the Blackhawks probably win this game nine out of 10 times if they replayed it.
Regardless, it was another game where the Blackhawks were trying to grind out a low-scoring win. Until they find a way to break out offensively, we might see more of that moving forward.
"It's a tough league," Kane said. "That's kind of the situation we're in with this team now. You look at the last few games, even the games we've been successful, we've found a way to get a late goal and win 1-0 or 3-2 in overtime. Looks like that's the way we're going to have to play to be successful."
While a win would've made Sunday night so much sweeter, the highlight of the day was seeing a familiar face back at the United Center in Troy Murray.
"It’s been tough not having him around, just like his smile and positive energy around," Ryan Carpenter said. "We really miss him. We’ve been thinking about him and praying for him a lot."
Fight on, TM19.