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. Shareef Abdur-Rahim Jersey . "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." Chandler Parsons Jersey .J. - Henrik Lundqvist has done more than set a couple of franchise records for the New York Rangers this week. Jarell Martin Jersey .S. Basketball Writers Association. McDermott, who finished his career at Creighton as college basketballs fifth-leading scorer, accepted the honour from Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson at AT&T Stadium, site of the Final Four. http://www.thegrizzliesofficial.com/Authentic-Tyreke-Evans-Grizzlies-Jersey/ . Louis Cardinals a hard-fought victory. The Colorado Rockies intentionally walked Yadier Molina with one out and runners on first and third to load the bases for Kozma.Every night of the Stanley Cup playoffs, TSN hockey analyst and former NHL goaltender Jamie McLennan breaks down each goalies performance. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (4) - Very good saves early on Marian Hossa, two times as well on Andrew Shaw. The Brandon Saad goal was a mirror of the Nick Leddy play from the previous game. He was very good with rebounds tonight, made a huge left pad save on Bryan Bickell in the third period while the score was 4-2. He continues to stymie the big guns of the Hawks. Quick has been very good at taking space for himself at top of crease, Hawks have not been able to keep him deep in his net annd he has seen most of the shots his way. Ben McLemore Jersey. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks (3) - Faced a lot of high quality scoring chances tonight, not a lot could have been done on three of the four goals, the Kings did a very good job of getting traffic in front of him all night long. At one point looked like Joel Quenneville was going to maybe make a goaltender change, to jar some momentum, but Crawford continued to battle and made big saves on Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown to at least keep the score respectable, and close. Needs to steal one if the Blackhawks are going to survive. 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