The comeback was noteworthy, but the entire process on how they got there in the first place was messy.
Defensive miscues were once again at the forefront of why the Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves down 4-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks through 20 minutes on Wednesday night. The Leafs were able to overcome their first period woes, eventually storming back to make it a 5-4 game late in the third period where they nearly tied it by blasted 29 shots on net in the final frame.
The continuous theme of starting the game poorly was ultimately too big of a hole to climb out of. For the second straight game, Garrett Sparks was forced to relieve Frederik Andersen, the first time the Leafs starter has ever been pulled in back-to-back games during his three seasons in Toronto.
In what's been a rather forgettable week for the hockey club with the team's on-ice struggles and the investigation surrounding the homophobic slur centred around Morgan Rielly from Monday's game against the Lightning, the Leafs will undoubtedly need their top players to step it up with the likely looming playoff series against the Boston Bruins on the horizon.
Toronto is one of six clubs currently without a team captain, and if it were up to their radio play-by-play announcer Joe Bowen, the time is nigh for a "c" to be slapped onto the jersey of the Leafs' top defenceman.
Rielly handled himself with professionalism during Tuesday's press conference next to general manager Kyle Dubas by noting that homophobia will not be tolerated in today's game and that the Leafs are a model franchise for when it comes to inclusion in 2019.
On the ice, Rielly has taken his game to another level this season and is in the conversation for being nominated for the Norris Trophy with 67 points (19 goals, 48 assists) in 70 games.
After Wednesday's letdown, Rielly was front and centre with the media, speaking on his team's behalf.
"If I had the answer right now, it wouldn’t be an issue because we would address it. “It’s just a blip; that’s the goal anyway. We don’t want it to last. We didn’t put ourselves in good position with the way we started but we have to be happy with how we battled back. Moving forward, it’s not a start we want to repeat.”
A solution to overcome their sluggish starts is desperately needed otherwise the team could find themselves with a repeated result of last spring unless 'Captain Morgan' and the rest of the leadership group can break the habit.