With the changing of the calendar comes a new perspective for the Maple Leafs in 2014.
Two weeks ago, they were a wounded team. They laboured two games under .500, their playoff seed was dropping and a pack of hungry teams, angry fans and media critics were all nipping at their heels. Coach Randy Carlyle’s face had a nightly red flush of anger to it, framed in wonderful high definition by the camera crew of HBO’s 24/7.
But when the Leafs came home from the Winter Classic, they’d gained points in six straight games, a highwater mark under Carlyle, won three straight and had given beleaguered Leaf Nation a reason to chest thump with a dramatic win on the NHL’s biggest non-playoff stage.
As they get back to the regular grind to prepare for the New York Rangers on Saturday, there is less trepidation of how they’ll get by the next six weeks until the Olympic break.