Bruins

Felger: Who's hot and who's not

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Felger: Who's hot and who's not

By Michael Felger

A six-pack of hotnot for your viewing pleasure.

HOT

Pat Riley

The more that comes out regarding LeBron James' "decision," the more you realize that if there was any one mastermind in the whole affair, it was the Heat president followed closely by Dewayne Wade.

To me, the most telling detail from Brian Windhorst's terrific story over the weekend involved Riley getting James together with Michael Jordan for a face-to-face meeting last November in Miami. It was after this meeting that James announced he was changing his jersey number from Jordan's 23, saying that all players should do the same out of respect for former Bulls' great.

Was it tampering? Not technically. Riley was just arranging a dinner between two people in his circle. Riley reportedly feels that more modern players should pay "homage" to Jordan and that was the deal. Presumably, it had nothing to do with James joining the Heat.

But the fact that James renounced Jordan's number so dramatically THAT NIGHT shows you that Riley had gained entre into James' decision-making process. Riley became a broker of sorts, laying the foundation for what was to come eight months later.

Perhaps Riley got sick of watching Phil Jackson further cement himself in Los Angeles. Maybe Riley got nostalgic watching all the Celtics-Lakers stuff the last few years. But it's clear the former Lakers coach wanted back in the game.

And so he is.

NOT

LeBron James

Duh. I happen to think James is getting more heat than is warranted (he couldn't win, regardless of where he decided to go and how he decided to do it), but there's no question he took a tremendous hit last Thursday night. And it will only get worse until he wins a championship. Just ask A-Rod. Or Kobe (post-Shaq).

The irony is that James is merely fulfilling the destiny David Stern created. Stern's league values the individual over the team. It cares more about the show than the substance. So it was really just a matter of time before a guy like James came along. You think Stern is disgusted by what he saw last Thursday? Au contraire. It's his new model.

HOT

David Ortiz

He was right and we were wrong. Simple as that. We take everything back.

Unless he craps the bed in the second half, of course. Then we were right all along.

NOT

Jacoby Ellsbury

Ok, Jacoby. We got it. The ribs were broken, not bruised. There was a broken rib in back that the team missed. We believe you.

But we also believe you when you say all the broken ribs were suffered in that initial collision with Adrian Beltre on April 11. And that means it's taken you 13 weeks (and counting) to recover from an injury that usually takes around 4-6.

From a PR standpoint, I think you would have been better off saying you suffered that posterior break when you returned May 22 in Philadelphia. Then we'd be able to reset the clock from that time and say you've now missed only seven weeks (and counting) since you cracked another rib.

But, apparently, you're more interested in showing people you got shoddy treatment from the Sox' medical staff. And saying the Sox missed the initial break makes them look worse no doubt about it.

There's only one problem with that: It makes you look worse, too.

Thirteen weeks (and counting), Jacoby.

HOT

Soccer

Television ratings for the World Cup were up across the board this summer, with Sunday's Spain-Netherlands final ending up as the most-watched soccer match in U.S. history. Here in Boston, the game beat the Red Sox in terms of households and crushed the Sox in the unofficial category of eyeballs, since so many people watched the soccer in bars or as part of viewing parties.

To me, the numbers represent, for the first time in decades, legitimate traction for the sport here in the states.

NOT

U.S. Soccer

And the Americans failed to take advantage of it.

Making the knockout round got our attention (the U.S.-Ghana game stands as the second-most watched game in U.S. history), and then came the letdown. American soccer could have used one more win, one more week of build up.

So what if more people were interested in the patriotism than the sport? They had us. And they blew it.

E-mail Felger HERE and read his mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

BOSTON – The Bruins returned Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to good health and their lineup on Thursday night, but they also saw a few more players get banged up in their win over the Vancouver Canucks. 

David Krejci exited Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the Canucks with an upper body injury after scoring a power play goal, and Adam McQuaid also had to leave the game after dropping to one knee to block a shot with his right leg. McQuaid was also already banged up after taking a shot off his knee in last weekend’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, so taking another shot off the leg certainly wasn’t a helpful development. 

“He blocked a shot, so he’ll get evaluated tonight or tomorrow. I don’t know how serious – he blocks a lot of shots. This one stung him obviously so we’ll see how it turns out. Adam [McQuaid] has been doing that for years around here. He’s one of the unsung heroes in that locker room. Doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, the tough parts of the game, blocking shots, sticking up for your teammates,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He actually manages the puck very well. He’s not a flashy player. He’s not a guy that just throws it away either. He makes good decisions with it, and every team needs an Adam McQuaid. We’re certainly fortunate to have him.”

With Krejci it appeared that he suffered some back spasms after getting cross-checked, and that’s what ended up forcing him out of the win. Cassidy doesn’t foresee it being a long-term thing with Krejci, who finished with a goal and two points in 8:21 of ice time centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak.  

“He has an upper body; he had to leave. He wasn’t feeling too terrific today, and then he got, I think there was a cross-check there. He tried it, but couldn’t continue [playing]. I think he had some spasms, but I don’t think there’s anything long-term there at all.”

It remains to be seen if either McQuaid or Krejci will miss any time with the bumps and bruised suffered on Thursday, but it goes without saying that the Bruins hope they can stay in a lineup that’s beginning to take shape with the full group. 

Haggerty: Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

Haggerty: Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

BOSTON – To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the presence of Patrice Bergeron is a major game-changer for the Boston Bruins. 

Bergeron finally felt good enough to return to the B’s lineup after missing the first five games of the season with a lower body injury, and the impact was immediate and unmistakable with a goal and four points in a 6-3 win for the Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden. It was also a far-reaching impact with the Bruins center pumping life back in the B’s power play with a return to his bumper position, returning a top penalty killer to the Bruins rotation, bringing normalcy back to the forward group by slotting fellow forwards back into their rightful spots and simply giving the B’s their best all-around player back. 

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Clearly it was a joyous moment for Bergeron to get back on the ice and play after getting a couple of good days in on the practice ice leading up to Thursday night. 

“It’s hard no matter what it is. You know, when you’re missing games, when you’re missing time, it’s… you miss being out there with the guys and battling with them and going through what we have to go through as a team. It’s good to be back,” said Bergeron. “You don’t know what to expect obviously [after a long layoff]. You’re trying to hope for the best. I don’t want to say I was surprised [at his high level of play] because you want to be at your best every time you step on the ice.”

Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork finally skated together for the first time after building chemistry all throughout training camp, and they finished with four goals, 10 points, a plus-6 rating and 13 of Boston’s 35 shots on net for the game. It was the way that the Bruins roster was drawn up headed into the season before they had a five-game detour due to the injuries, and the hope is that’s the way it will continue to look for the Black and Gold moving forward. 

“I mean it’s pretty evident, you know, the way [Bergeron] played out there. He just, it’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long, you know?” said Brad Marchand, who finally has his longtime partner-in-crime back. “He’s just such a big part of the group. He’s able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. He just does everything that a top guy does.”

Perhaps most striking of all was the emotion and organization that the Bruins played with having Bergeron and David Backes back in the lineup. The breakouts, reloading counter-attacks and defensive zone coverage all had more noticeable structure, and the Bruins were able to get the wave after wave attack from their forward groups that spurred on goals both during 5-on-5 play and when special teams were involved. 

Some of that is getting two highly talented players like Bergeron and Backes back from injury, and some of it is getting an important, tone-setting leader like No. 37 back for everything he does off the ice as well. 

Bergeron set up the important answering goal in the first period by firing a puck that created a rebound for Bjork to clean up, he did the same for David Krejci’s power play to close out the first period scoring, he created the turnover that led to Marchand’s goal in the second period and then he sniped home his own goal from the bumper spot to finally clinch things in the third period. It was clear that Bergeron is still navigating through discomfort and some level of injury while playing at this point, but his hockey IQ and his gritty toughness are allowing him to still be a highly effective player. 

“I think it was self-evident out there that the play on the ice, first of all, built a matchup against whoever we really want. The Power play obviously [was a] big impact there. I think it’s just morale as much as anything, on the bench and in the room,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Those intangibles, leadership, first shift of the game, he’s standing up. They had scored a goal and [he’s] kind of settling the troops down, talking about the details of the game. 

“[He’s talking about] finishing your routes on the fore-check and reloading all the way to our zone.

[It’s the] stuff that coaches preach a lot, but goes in one ear and out the other sometimes. When you hear it from the leaders of the group, it means so much more. To have that back in the room and along with David Backes, those are guys that are just vocal players that bring a lot in that aspect. It’s generally, a quiet group. That doesn’t mean you can’t be effective and win as a quiet group, but it just helps sometimes to have a little bit of that energy.”

While it was a clearly a feel-good story to see Bergeron back in his proper environs on the ice, it was also just as apparent there’s still some lower body discomfort with the Bruins center. He looked like he was in pain or laboring at times out on the ice, and admitted after the game that the lower body injury might be something he’ll need to manage for the time being. That would tend to mean that once again this isn’t something that’s going to go away anytime soon, and Bergeron will again need to grind his way through the pain. 

“That’s the million dollar question, right? I don’t know what to say to that. I guess yeah, I mean I’m feeling good,” said Bergeron. “But there’s… we might manage a little bit for quite a while. But I’m feeling good and tonight was no issue.”

Clearly Bergeron and the Bruins will gladly take it if he can be a difference-maker like he was on Thursday night with a four points, eight shot attempts and plenty of hard-working shifts in his 20:58 of ice time for the game. They’ll just need to keep their fingers crossed that No. 37 can keep suiting up and playing at a high level, and that the 32-year-old can avoid any further problems after already sitting out the first five games of the regular season.