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#1 26.12.2019 07:51:53

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MONTREAL – The question was posed to Jonathan Bernier, perhaps the bu

MONTREAL – The question was posed to Jonathan Bernier, perhaps the busiest netminder in the National Hockey League this season and a man who has witnessed the strength of terrific defensive hockey in Los Angeles firsthand en route to a Cup in 2012: Can his Toronto Maple Leafs, currently the top wild card in the East, threaten a deep playoff run without raising their substandard level of defensive play? "Goalies got to be good," Bernier said with an almost uncomfortable laugh. Stitched Packers Jerseys . "I personally dont think so," he continued frankly. "Because some games [the goalie] wont get those bounces and [the puck is] going to go in somehow. But we know weve got it in this room. Weve just got to pay the price to play better defensively and, if we do, Im pretty sure we can be one of the top teams in this league." Its an uncomfortable truth for a team that wrung up 11 wins in 14 games before the Olympic break and has designs on making noise in the playoffs after a long-awaited return last spring. This is a hockey club that struggles badly to defend and relies most nights on terrific goaltending and an incredibly potent offence to win. Its a formula that might yield success in the regular season, and it has for the Leafs thus far, but is unlikely to gain much steam when the hockey tightens in mid-April. Head coach Randy Carlyle has been beating the drum loudly on the topic all season, but doesnt have much to show for it. His group remains a work in progress. "Weve been trying and stressing that defensive hockey is whats going to give your team the best chance to qualify for the playoffs," said Carlyle after an instructive practice in Brossard, Quebec. "[But] were in the qualification mode. Were not in the playoff mode [yet]." Only five teams have been worse than the Leafs defensively this season and only one of those teams, the Ottawa Senators, has any hope of qualifying for the playoffs. Toronto has allowed a bloated three goals per game despite boasting some of the finest goaltending in the league with the 25-year-old Bernier. No team, in fact, puts more pressure on their goaltender to be great than do the Leafs. Only Mike Smith in Phoenix has faced more shots than Bernier thus far and hes started 10 more games than the native of Laval. "I think weve seen it," said Bernier of sturdy defensive play. "I think everyones seen it, but I dont think weve seen it consistently enough." Hurting the effort is a bad penalty kill, one thats allowed the most goals (tied) in the league this season, an unstable defence which includes young and growing parts like Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner and a high-end forward group that has shown only spotty attention to defence. A pile of goals and timely goaltending have been required most nights to win. That was true during an 11-2-1 run before the 18-day Olympic stoppage. Running, then, behind the all-world efforts of Phil Kessel, who has been the hottest player on the planet in 2014, the club scored 51 goals – 3.64 per game – but also allowed 41 on the other end. Theyve won despite being outshot in 36 of 48 games – they have a record of 21-10-5 in those games – and despite the fact that theyve allowed a league-high of more than 36 shots per game. Cody Franson, second on the back-end in minutes, believes the instability is tied to confusion in the defensive end, too much thinking rather quick instinctual reaction. "I think were still a little indecisive on things sometimes," he said. "We try and play a quite aggressive style of defence and sometimes when you think too much you end up being a half second slow compared to where you should be. That comfort level just isnt quite there with us yet. I think we still think about things too much." They allowed five in their most recent affair against the Islanders on Thursday night, an overtime loss to a struggling club that was without its best player and leading scorer, John Tavares, and their third leading point-getter in Frans Nielsen. Two of the goals came by way of short circuiting on the power-play with Michael Grabner scoring twice shorthanded in a span of 48 seconds on the same power-play. Another found the back of the net via the aforementioned penalty kill with two more coming on defensive breakdowns, including the overtime winner. "Gifts," said Carlyle after the 5-4 defeat. "Ive got no other word to describe the goals that we gave up." A drastic reversal at this late stage in the year seems unlikely, though Carlyle and the coaching staff continue to push and prod. They did so with any available ice during the Olympic break and continued at practice Friday, narrowing their sights on a tighter neutral zone and improved forecheck – efforts aimed at spending less time in the defensive zone. But with just 21 games to play, including a division clash with the Canadiens on Saturday, its probably safe to say that this is what these Maple Leafs are. The question now is whether they can, as currently constructed, make a little noise in the postseason (assuming they get in) or whether their defensive liabilities will prove too onerous to overcome. Last spring, they nearly toppled a Bruins giant, but required some lightning in a bottle and forgotten brilliance from James Reimer in Games 5 and 6. History points emphatically in the direction of those that can defend. In fact, the last three Stanley Cup winners finished the regular season as either the best or second-best team defensively. And though the Leafs are not yet in the Cup conversation, that remains the goal somewhere down the road. Dave Nonis and the Toronto management team have to be mindful of that fact as it relates to the larger construction of the roster, both now with the Mar. 5 trade deadline looming and over the longer term with the core thats being put into place. Are these the foundations of a club that can eventually win the ultimate prize?  "You always see it every year, strong defensive teams win," said Jay McClement. "I think we have the make-up for it. But not without being strong defensively. Obviously, youre not going to win a lot of games 5-4 in the playoffs. We have the goaltending for it and have had it all year. Weve just got to cut down on these mistakes and well be fine. "Were not changing the way we do it, weve just got to do it better." Packers Jerseys China . Yoenis Cespedes proved he can play through a hurting right heel, giving Scott Kazmir and the As a spark with a pair of RBIs that helped spoil the Minnesota Twins home opener with an 8-3 victory on Monday. Green Bay Packers Store .C. - Canadian ice dancing, it seems, is in good hands. https://www.packersjerseysale.com/ . Cain departed in the fourth inning of a 10-5 loss to the Pirates on Thursday. X-rays on Cains bruised forearm were negative. He was hit when Sanchez led off the fourth with a groundout.HARRISON, N.J. -- Toronto FC were a minute away from a big road victory against a team close to them in the standings before a veteran just back from the World Cup helped steal away what seemed a sure three points. Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill, who scored twice for Australia in Brazil just a week ago, knocked a header at the feet of New Yorks Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 93rd minute to beat Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik for a 2-2 draw Friday. The result left an often dominant Toronto (6-4-2) club with just a point in its first match following a league-wide World Cup break. "Im disappointed that we didnt hold out, disappointed that I couldnt make that last save. I thought we were the far better team the entire game," Bendik said. While New York (4-5-7) held a slight edge in possession, Toronto outshot the Red Bulls 20-14 with a 7-6 advantage in shots on target despite still missing midfielder Michael Bradley to the World Cup. Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen felt it was a match they could learn from and a sign they were gaining momentum after an opening three months that saw them play the fewest league games in Major League Soccer. "We had a couple of weeks (during the break) and sort of benefited off that," Nelsen said. "Guys are staying a bit healthier, and hopefully we can just keep on it." Despite a quality first half, Toronto trailed heading into halftime as Peguy Luyindula headed a cross from Ambroise Oyongo past a diving Bendik to make it 1-0 in the 36th minute. The Reds jumped out to their best period of the game to begin the second half, as Jermain Defoe beat New Yorks Carlos Robles against the grain to even the score in the 55th minute. The goal is Defoes eighth in nine league matches. Toronto made aa sub designed on going for at least a draw by bringing on Brazilian designated player Gilberto, who had been scoreless in nine previous matches. Fake Packers Jerseys. In the 72nd minute, after a dispute with Defoe over who would take a free kick from inside 25 yards, stutter stepped before cracking an unstoppable shot to the top right corner of the goal that froze everyone on the pitch, save for a helpless, diving Robles. "Sometimes you just get a feeling," said Nelsen, addressing the moments leading up to the kick between his two international stars. "I think Gil had a feeling he was going to do something, and players understand that. (That goal) will be shown around the world, for a long time." Defoe admitted he was fine with the decision in the end. "Yeah, it was meant (to be). In football, youre confident, and when he stepped up, I had that feeling that he was going to score. You can see from the celebrations, Im so happy for him." Gilberto eventually left the game in the 89th minute with what Nelson called a hip problem. Toronto were unable to fend off a desperate New York team that remained one point behind them for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, with a somewhat surprise substitution of Cahill for the goal-scorer Luyindula. New York head coach Mike Petke admitted that hed had no plans to use Cahill in any serious role prior to the team going down a goal. "I was hoping to bring Tim on in the 88th minute, up 3-0, so the fans could clap him for the wonderful World Cup he had," Petke said. "Obviously things change, with the score, with the way the game went. We felt, to bring Tim on for 20 minutes, perhaps something could happen, and obviously it did in the end." ' ' '

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