Lou Piniella was probably sipping a cocktail somewhere Saturday night after watching baseball.
Mike Keenan likely was already preparing for his new job as coach of the KHL's Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Russia.
Lovie Smith was in a place where the glasses are always half-full.
But, in spirit only, all four men were at the United Center as Joel Quenneville barked behind the glass, desperately trying to avoid joining them in Chicago sports infamy and leaving part of a legacy no coach wants.
Quenneville can wait at least another day to ponder such an ignominious fate. His Blackhawks staved off elimination with a fast, physical effort in a 4-1 victory in Game 5 that included a functional power play and the first playoff goal for Jonathan Toews.
"It builds confidence, I don't care who you are," Toews said. "When you see it go in, you feel like you can do it again."
Chicago's sigh after Toews' power-play goal probably registered as a blast of lakefront wind. The relief on Toews' face, on all of the faces of the happy Hawks, reflected how high the anxiety had mounted for a team with expectations as great as ours.
To a man, the Hawks agreed during their record streak to start the lockout-shortened season that it was Stanley Cup Final-or-bust. Anything short would be considered failure. Nothing has changed — the Hawks took command of the game but, moving back to Detroit for Game 6, the Red Wings still control the series.
"We got the momentum back on our side," Quenneville said. "Let's go in and keep it."
Winning diminished the pressure on the Blackhawks but hardly removed it. They took the ice knowing only 20 of 229 teams in the NHL playoffs have come back from a 3-1 series deficit to advance. That means a 91.3 percent chance still exists that the Hawks will become the latest team to tease our city's tortured sports fans.
That doesn't mean the Blackhawks will, not after a complete performance that re-established them as a deeper, more talented team. That only means the ache locally will feel familiar if they eventually do follow the path scattered with so many broken hearts.
The Cubs of 2003 and 1969 deserve their own category for calamity. Nothing the Blackhawks fail to accomplish can make that kind of historical dent or match the civic angst. But in 2008, Piniella's Cubs more comparably won a National League-best 97 games, only to have the Dodgers sweep them in the playoffs. In 1991, Keenan's Blackhawks entered the playoffs as the Presidents' Trophy winners, like this Hawks team, and exited quickly when the North Stars eliminated them in six games.
More recently, but no less painful, Ventura's White Sox blew a three-game lead in the American League Central with 15 to play last September. That collapse came a month before Smith's Bears jumped out to a 7-1 start only to miss the playoffs and have the coaching staff fired.
It all makes the Hawks transforming from the best team in hockey into one 60 minutes from elimination so very Chicago. When Jim Cornelison delivered another typically rousing pregame rendition of the national anthem, none of the 22,014 fans knew whether that was the last time they would hear him until the fall.
The Hawks came determined to convert their nervous energy into execution. They started at a furious pace, especially head-hunters Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. When defenseman Brent Seabrook, skating like a man perturbed by reduced playing time, leveled Damien Brunner, it announced loudly the Hawks arrived in the mood to mix it up.
"We played like it was our last game," Seabrook said.
Quenneville responded to the urgency by reconstituting The Desperation Line: Patrick Kane, Toews and Patrick Sharp. He also reunited defensemen Duncan Keith and Seabrook in a pairing that once functioned so well. For a while, the only relevant year of comparison for the Hawks was 2010.
Even the struggling power play worked — and changed the game. It was 1-1 at the 13:08 mark of the second period when Shaw tipped Keith's shot past Wings goalie Jimmy Howard to regain the lead and a swagger.
"Bicksy (Bickell) always says it's luck, but I have pretty good hand-eye coordination," said Shaw, who scored twice.
Good things happen when the Hawks camp out in front of the goalie, establish position and obstruct Howard's view. It's called net presence and the ploy put the Hawks squarely back in this series.
Less than three minutes after Shaw's goal, Toews broke through. Anything seemed possible again.
Suddenly, anything is, even for a team from Chicago.