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.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.