"Sometimes, we used to call them morning glories," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn was saying last night.
"In the morning skate they could beat the world, but you couldn't find them with a Norton bomb site at night."
Now, it should be remembered that according to Quinn, the Leafs don't answer to that description although they started winning games about the time they were all but knocked out of the playoff race.
"It's a possibility," the wily coach conceded, "but I know they haven't given up. In this town, you don't escape. We've been scrutinized to the (highest) degree and that will continue."
If the Leafs are being scrutinized, it is in the way people with toe-tags are scrutinized by people in white lab jackets.
You should know the Glories blasted the Buffalo Sabres 7-0 last night at the Air Canada Centre.
About 20,000 had as much fun as is legal in Toronto on a Saturday night.
Leafs fans could be forgiven for thinking it had all been a dream: The eight- and five- game losing streaks, the hideous goaltending, the shredded defence, the abdication in Montreal.
"That's not my team," they could be saying, and they would be right.
After all, there was big Nik Antropov, invisible in the way King Kong managed to stay unnoticed in New York City, knocking over a Buffalo defenceman, regaining the puck and scoring. He had two, yes, two goals last night.
Aki Berg stuck to Buffalo attackers like gum on the heel of a shoe and came within two inches of finding the right side of the goalpost in the third. Yes, that Aki Berg.
Ian White found the net off a Buffalo player for the rookie's first career NHL goal. Goalie J.S. Aubin, No. 16 on the club's depth chart as the season began, was stellar when called upon and full value for the shutout.
Giddy fans at the ACC cheered the announcement of the end of the first period because the period had been good, not bad. It was like someone in the platinum seats had jumped up, waved a thick wad of bills in the air and cried, "Free sushi for everyone!"
"No one has given up" said Aubin, who is playing for a spot on next year's team. "The guys are really going all out, every shift. We're not done yet."
There's no quit in these kids, Harry, now that circumstance is around to take care of things.
They don't have to quit. All they have to do is play 10 more games.
What the Leafs do matters only a little bit. Their future is being decided in the outback. Yesterday it was Philadelphia, where the New Jersey Devils nailed the Flyers 4-1, and in Montreal and Florida, where both home teams won.
Not having to win agrees with the Leafs. Having lost the season last weekend in Montreal (and if ever there were a season that needed losing, it is this one), the Leafs are unimpeded by any plans past April 18.
This is a team that approached the trade deadline needing to make drastic changes to either improve or retool. Instead, general manager John Ferguson Jr. did next to nothing.
So Quinn garnered his 651st NHL career win last night, padding albeit minutely the best coaching resume in the league.
Fat lot of good that will do him, since Quinn, who surrendered the GM job to Ferguson, now will have to answer for his first missed playoffs in seven tries.
Ah, spring. The crocuses are in season. So are the morning glories.