TAMPA – This is who the Leafs are. For all the talk of change and the need for it in recent weeks or the hope for change that a revamped coaching staff and roster brought with it in the fall, this club essentially embodies all the same flawed elements as years past. Nothing has changed. And with the midway point of the season just over a week away, its pretty safe to assume that not much will change or change substantially enough to matter. This is a middle of the road hockey club, one that may challenge and even qualify for a playoff position this season. But also one that remains fatally flawed in the bigger picture of Stanley Cup contention with a troubled core thats locked up long-term. This is a defensively-challenged, offensively-potent hockey club that wins behind that offence along with goaltending that is typically above-average despite an enormous workload. Monday night in Tampa offered the perfect snapshot of all that these Leafs are despite assertions from the teams captain that a fifth loss in six games was more the result of playing on back-to-back nights. Tonights a totally different situation, Phaneuf said after a 3-2 loss to Tampa, challenging an assessment that the clubs defensive issues have lingered for weeks and not just a single 60-minute affair. Its not even in the same ballpark. Youre playing a team thats sitting. Its different circumstances. Its a back-to-back game, he noted earlier. Theyre sitting here waiting. I think you could tell which team was fresher. With saying that, thats part of playing in the National Hockey League. Youve got to be able to play back-to-backs. Toronto scored twice on its first two shots in the opening eight minutes – opportunistic as ever – then proceeded to land just two more shots in the 20 minutes or so that followed. The Lightning peppered shot after shot – many of quality – at a feisty James Reimer as the Leafs scrambled around in the defensive zone. Head coach Randy Carlyle observed that his team was scatterbrained at times during a second period that saw Tampa score twice, including a game-tying goal from Valterri Filppula; one that zipped through traffic to beat Reimer. Making his second start in as many nights, the 26-year-old Reimer held on to stop the first 22 shots he faced before yielding a goal on each of the next two that came his way. Toronto, better than only Buffalo this season in shot suppression, allowed 32 shots after two periods alone. They were held to just four on the other end nearly halfway through the game. When we do get opportunities, were able to score, but were not getting enough of them, Carlyle said, his team generating just 23 shots at Ben Bishop. And were not sustaining enough pressure in the offensive zone and the other team, they have the puck more than we do. Tampa finished with a 65 per cent possession mark at even-strength, cycling pucks almost without end in the Toronto zone. Steven Stamkos ultimately broke the tie midway through the final frame, wide-open in front of Reimer to tip what became the game-winning goal. It was the kind of glaring misstep defensively thats become all too representative of this Leafs team. Monday marked the 10th time in 37 games – and sixth in the past 12 – that Toronto has surrendered 40 shots or more. We gave up too many chances, but again it is a back-to-back, Phaneuf said, pushing an odd defence of troubles that have lingered for much longer than a night. But its still unacceptable to expect Reims to have that much [of a] workload…And the bottom line is, we have to cut down shots against. One night aside, the challenge for team president Brendan Shanahan in the weeks, months and years ahead is to determine how much of what ails the club is tied to Carlyle and a system and message that hasnt taken and how much is tied to a roster built on the stilts of a truly flawed core, led by Phaneuf and Phil Kessel. Kessel, perhaps the teams best player, symbolizes the difficulty of such a task, his gifts offensively so great but so lacking in other key areas and intangibles of the game. He has seven years to go on a contract which carries an annual cap hit of $8 million. The Leafs will likely right this losing spell, get back on track and win some games. Theyve got the offence and goaltending to do so. But that wont change the grander picture of what this team is and thats one in need of deconstruction by a boss with plenty on his plate in the weeks, months and years ahead. Five Points 1. Shots Against These defensive troubles have only been exacerbated recently. The Leafs have been outshot by an average of nearly 11 shots in the past 10 games, yielding 38 per game in that span. Shot Differential 10-game Segment Shots-Against Average Shots-For Average Dec. 10 – Dec. 29 37.9 27.1 Nov. 15 – Dec. 9 33.3 29.3 Cody Franson offered a detailed assessment of some of the teams defensive troubles. Some of it stems from being able to break out of our zone, he said. Were trying some different things right now; trying to play less in our zone and limit those shots against. But its a combination of things. I think weve just got to get back in a constant flow. Were playing a system that we seem to be spacing ourselves out a little bit sometimes or getting over-extended in the D-zone sometimes. Its just a matter of our group trying to work in five-man units a little better and play tighter hockey. We have to try and do a better job of being more physical and eliminating [the opposing] teams cycle game, he continued, pressed further on the clubs ongoing troubles in the defensive zone. And when we get the puck, we have to be able to get out of our zone and have options to get out of our zone. It seems like we turn it over too much. We dump the puck in without a lot of forechecking pressure or were just too tired to get anything on them. We dump it and we change and theyre coming back at us and we receive the game. 2. Talk without Results The Leafs have talked often about what must change as it relates to the defensive zone, but that talk hasnt been followed by any consistent results. Phaneuf disagreed, however, with such an assessment. You have your own opinion on what you think can be changed, he said. But us as players, we have a job to do. Were working at it, but we have to be better at it. You can have your opinion on it, but were working towards being and doing a better job of keeping our shot totals down, but tonight we just werent able to do that. I dont think its as much as a group of not buying in, Franson added. I dont think thats the problem. I think were just struggling to execute right now and get that flow within our group. Its not like were not working hard, we just arent doing it quite smart enough. 3. Robotics Daniel Winnik observed recently that the structured game, which has eluded the Leafs so often, is not always fun to play, but necessary for team success. He noted Monday how the club tends to stray from that type of game and think hey we can play some run and gun right now. Its tough to stick to a structured system when thats happening. Winnik agreed that part of the challenge lied in convincing the teams skilled players to rein in that skill from time to time in favour of a better team game. Fewer risky plays, say, at the offensive blue line thus resulting in fewer turnovers and less chances for the opponent in transition. When youve got guys who are as skilled as they are, its tough to hold them back, Winnik said. Its like reining in a thoroughbred and telling them to not go as fast as they can. Weve gotten better at it throughout the year and then weve reverted back to old ways sometimes. I dont know what its going to take to stick to robotics a bit, but I think itll slowly happen. I think its just commitment, really. Its tough to do. 4. In Defence of Reimer The Leafs spent Monday morning deconstructing video from Sundays 6-4 defeat in Florida. Made clear to players yet again was the need for stiffer coverage in the defensive zone, a point repeated all too frequently in recent years. Less than vigilant in their defence of James Reimer – both on and off the ice – following the loss to the Panthers, the team took to defending him some a day later. We have all the confidence in the world in James Reimer, said Leafs assistant Steve Spott. We have to be better in front of him. Its not only the shots, its the quality of shots that some of these teams are getting. The easy thing to do is blame a pitcher in baseball or a goalie in hockey; were all about a full team effort and weve got to make sure were better in front of both goalies. 5. Bernier Though he was ultimately held out for the second straight night (flu-like symptoms), Jonathan Bernier was back with the Leafs on Monday and feeling better. The team considered dressing him as the backup, but ultimately decided against it. Bernier did travel with the club to Boston and is expected to be available for Wednesday nights game against the Bruins. Stats Pack 10 – Number of times the Leafs have allowed 40 shots or more this season. 37.9 – Average shots against the Leafs in the past 10 games. 10.8 – Margin by which the Leafs have been outshot in those 10 games. 9-8-1 – Leafs record in sets of back-to-back games this season. Special Teams Capsule PP: 0-2 Season: 20.2% (10th) PK: 3-4 Season: 83.2% (10th) Quote of the Night Its a back-to-back game. Theyre sitting here waiting. I think you could tell which team was fresher. With saying that, thats part of playing in the National Hockey League. Youve got to be able to play back-to-backs. - Dion Phaneuf, on the Leafs loss in Tampa. Up Next The Leafs continue their five-game road swing in Boston on Wednesday night. Custom England Soccer Jerseys . So heres what I do when I want to get into the baseball mood—I delve into "The Baseball Project". Fabian Delph England Jersey . At least 90 players who had college eligibility remaining are expected to enter the draft, shattering last years record number of 73. "Its a humongous number, so the first reaction is it makes you step back a little bit," said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout with the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles. http://www.englandsoccerpro.com/Eric-Dier-England-Jersey/ ." Bach is in Rome for the European Olympic Committees general assembly and meetings with Pope Francis. He also visited with Italian Premier Enrico Letta. "The prime minister appeared to be interested in a bid from Italy for 24, because he has realized that the games can serve as a catalyst for development for a city and a country," Bach told The Associated Press on Saturday. Raheem Sterling Jersey . PAUL, Minn. David Beckham England Jersey . Span, Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche had two hits apiece as Washington won the final two games of the series. The Nationals improved to 3-7 against Atlanta. They increased their division lead over the Braves to 1 1/2 games.Alex Dubeau made 44 saves as the Moncton Wildcats earned their sixth straight win with a 3-1 victory over the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League play Wednesday. Dubeau had to be good on a night when the Wildcats failed to fire more than seven shots in a period. Reid Halabi, JC Campagna and Ryan Penny scored for Moncton (18-17-2), which had two goals in the first period despite being outshot 15-4. Charles-Eric Legare had the lone goal for Cape Breton (19-13-3), while Alex Bureau allowed all three goals on just 18 shots.dddddddddddd --- OCEANIC 7 CATARACTES 2 RIMOUSKI, Que. -- Tyler Boland scored twice as the Oceanic romped past Shawinigan. Peter Trainor, Simon Bourque, Ryan MacKinnon, Alexis Loiseau and Dominic Beauchemin added one each for Rimouski (19-11-6). Alexandre Grand-Maison and Francis Beauvillier had a goal apiece for the struggling Cataractes (7-25-3). Philippe Desrosiers finished with 21 saves for Rimouski, while Shawinigans Maxime Lagace gave up all seven goals on 41 shots. ' ' '