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Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly warms up before a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. on Feb. 22.Stephen R. Sylvanie/Reuters

When defenceman Morgan Rielly was suspended two weeks ago, Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe spun the negative positive.

The absence of their best non-forward would “galvanize” the team, Keefe said. It had happened before, Keefe said. Remember that time Auston Matthews was hurt and Max Domi played one good game? Like that.

As he said it, Keefe’s heart didn’t seem to be in it. You could see him thinking in math – if we win half these games, then maybe this doesn’t spiral.

Since those comments, the Leafs have won seven in a row. It says something about this franchise’s 21st century that that’s its longest winning streak in more than 20 years.

On Saturday, the streak peaked. A 4-3 regulation win; in Denver; at the end of a long West Coast trip; against an Avalanche team that had not lost at home since New Year’s; a comeback from two goals down; led by a hat trick from perpetual net dodger, Tyler Bertuzzi.

The only way Saturday’s return gets any better is if Carlton the Bear wins the 50/50 draw.

The entire roster is thriving through this recent run, but the primary beneficiary is Rielly. Two weeks ago, he was being measured for concrete shoes, to be delivered on locker clearout day. ‘For the man who sunk the season.’ Now he’s The Galvanizer. The obvious conclusion for those looking for teachable lessons: more crosschecks.

While Rielly was gone, everything came together. Auston Matthews has scored 10 goals during the streak. Mitch Marner has 15 points. The emergency goalie tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Martin Jones is playing like a modern power combo. This is as good as it gets for this – or any other – team.

But because it is the Leafs, they are not allowed to show restraint. That would be weakness. Instead, they have to speak about this run as though it is the new normal.

“It just seems like we’ve taken a step just in terms of overall growth, overall structure, composure,” Rielly told reporters on Saturday.

So, what, after eight years together, this is the moment it all comes together? Everyone’s decided to grow up at once?

Maybe so. Matthews in particular looks as though he has accessed a new level. He was always at the top of the league in allowing the game to come to him. Now he has added the ability to force himself into the game. He scores when and how he likes.

So maybe this is it, except that we’ve heard this ‘we’re finally starting to really figure each other out’ line before. A lot. Usually in the pre-pre-season and the post-post-season.

If this all happened in November, it would be harmless, speculative fun. But it’s less than two weeks to the trade deadline. There couldn’t be a more awkward moment for the Leafs to do a phantom impression of the 85 Oilers.

A month ago, everyone had agreed on where the Leafs were at – the middle of nowhere. The goalies weren’t good enough. The defence was thin. GM Brad Treliving’s headline off-season additions were busts.

The best way to save the campaign was to trade for every single available player in the NHL. If you had offered most Leafs fans one of those fantasy team ‘auto pick’ options where the algorithm chooses your entire squad, save for Matthews and William Nylander, many might have gone for it. ‘Change’ was the operative word.

In the past week, that has flipped. ‘Don’t jinx it’ is the new marching order. Matthews is hockey Jesus and everything is going to be fine. Don’t upset him. In fact, stop talking to him. Don’t even look at him.

Just keep things exactly as they are and this perfect moment can be extended uninterrupted and undiminished for four months.

Even Rielly was talking that way after Saturday night – “I was definitely nervous about coming in because the team was rolling. That was a little wracking.”

What a great new word. They should emblazon that across the front of the arena. That’s what it’s like to put any faith in the Leafs – wracking.

This is where the managing part of being in management comes to the fore, and should form the basis of how hiring Treliving is judged.

Maybe this is the version of the Leafs he pictured when he gave Bertuzzi his deal. Maybe he saw a world in which Jones shamed the two guys ahead of him into beating the league mean for shots stopped. Maybe he believed that, led by Matthews and Marner, the Leafs could flip common wisdom and score their way to the promised land.

At the start of the season, Treliving did the usual thing in which the new guy asks for time to find his feet. In Leafsland, that usually means ‘I give you five to seven years of ash and you give me unlimited mulligans.’ That’s how Toronto hears it anyway. Maybe Treliving’s different. Maybe he meant five months.

If so, maybe the Leafs have arrived at something like a finished product.

It’s also possible Treliving always intended on further tuning, no matter how smoothly the engine began turning over. A month ago, that was the obvious play. Now it will require more steel. If you trade for a brand name and things go sideways, only one person will be blamed – the trader.

The easy choice is to do nothing at the deadline, or to do so little that it effectively amounts to nothing.

The bold choice is to make a major change (trading everything in the kids’ college fund for Nashville goalie Juuse Saros would qualify).

The right choice cannot be known for several months.

For a change, it doesn’t feel like the Leafs are staggering into the deadline with a sign marked ‘Sucker’ taped to their backs. They may even be dealing from a position of strength.

This season hasn’t had many surprises, good or bad. Even the win streak isn’t unexpected. A team with this much artillery should go on streaks.

But to find themselves in a position late in the year where they have more than a single direction in which they can go? That’s new.

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