A real Top Ten

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A real Top Ten

By Michael Felger

A top-ten for your Monday perusal:

1. Fraud of the Month award goes to Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, who on Sunday blasted the league over its handling of the Islanders-Penguins brawl that netted 346 penalty minutes and 10 ejections on Friday in New York. Lemieux said the league failed to send the proper message by not handing out tougher suspensions. We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players,'' said Lemieux.

This from the man who employs Matt Cooke.

Funny how we didn't hear these comments after Cooke sent Marc Savard to the hospital last year. Funny how we didn't hear them after Cooke viciously boarded Columbus' Fedor Tyutin last week. Funny how Lemieux continues to sign Cooke's checks.

Fraud.

2. And some people still believe LeBron is a more dangerous player than Kobe? Please. Is there any question what Bryant would have done with those two free throws on Sunday?

3. Anyone who deluded themselves into believing the Bruins were an elite team should have been set straight this weekend, when they were rocked in a pair of games by the Red Wings. The aggregate score was 10-3. The shots were 70-51. Lidstrom. Datsyuk. Zetterberg. Bertuzzi. Holmstrom. Rafalski. That's what a true Stanley Cup contender looks like.

The Bruins, meanwhile, still look like two-and-done fodder. That's for now. The trade deadline is two weeks from today.

4. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I expect a big year from Jonathan Papelbon. He made a conscious effort a few years ago to change his mechanics so as not to throw out his arm. The reason he did that was to make it to his walk year. Now that he's here, something tells me he's going to open it up.

5. Interesting decision by NBC not to roll video during a discussion about fighting in the NHL during the Bruins broadcast on Sunday. The stated reason was that they didn't want to "celebrate'' it. Sigh. Then why spend two segments talking about it?

A more important question is why the league continues to be ashamed of itself. Here's an idea: Stop trying to sell the sport to people and places who don't get it and, frankly, don't want to get it. Focus on those of us who DO love the sport, and give us what we want. And that includes fighting.

6. Remember all those people who said last year that Tiger Woods would be able to brush off his fall from grace and continue to dominate pro golf? Over 12 months later, it still hasn't happened.

7. I keep getting emails that say things like this:

-- Steven Stamkos through Feb. 14 as a rookie in 2008-09: seven goals.

-- Tyler Seguin through Feb. 14 as a rookie in 2010-11: Nine goals.

Hey, whatever makes you feel better.

8. I know Logan Mankins is going to be upset if and when the Pats apply the franchise tag to him, but there's got to be at least part of him that would like to call the Pats' bluff and play a season under the tag. That's because the franchise number for offensive linemen this year is 10.7 million. That's an absurd number for a guard, but because tackles are used to compute the number for all linemen, Mankins benefits. Again, over 10 million, guaranteed, for one season to play guard. That's more than the franchise numbers at cornerback (9.5 million), defensive tackle (7 million), running back (8.1 million) and receiver (9.5 million).

So if I were Mankins I might be tempted to say: You want to pay me 10 million guaranteed to play guard for one year? Go right ahead.

9. It's just fun writing bad things about LeBron. So it took him 21 shots to score 22 points in a have-to-have-it game . . . with a point guard checking him?

Tremendous.

10. Go Huskies!

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

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

After knee injury, Beleskey set to return for Bruins vs. Blackhawks

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins, looking for a spark after terrible, back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, are hoping the return of Matt Beleskey from a knee injury can help provide the inspiration. 

The blue-collar left winger has missed the past 23 games with a torn MCL in his right knee suffered in early December against the Buffalo Sabres, but now he’s easing back into the lineup on the fourth line in Friday night’s showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Beleskey was skating with Dominic Moore and Austin Czarnik on the fourth line at morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena and should be expected to throw a few hard hits and play with some intensity in his return.

“I’m ready to go and excited to get back out there,” said Beleskey, who has been skating with the team for roughly a week after giving the knee sufficient time to heal. “I’ve just got to keep it simple and do what I do well: Be hard on pucks, take the body and just try and find your groove. You don’t want to expect too much in your first game back, but you just want to be able to contribute.

“’I’ve been saving [the pent-up energy] for a while, so I’m ready to get back out there and hopefully provide a spark for us.”

The Beleskey return also provides the player with a bit of a reset button after a slow start to the season that saw him with two goals and five points along with a minus-6 rating in 24 games played for the Black and Gold prior to his injury. Here are the projected line combos and D-pairs against the Blackhawks based on morning skate today:

Marchand-Bergeron-Vatrano

Schaller-Krejci-Pastrnak

Spooner-Nash-Backes/Hayes

Beleskey/Blidh-Moore-Czarnik

 

Chara-Carlo

Krug-McQuaid

Morrow-Liles

 

Rask

Thomas on not getting All-Star start: 'It hurts but I’ll be all right’

Thomas on not getting All-Star start: 'It hurts but I’ll be all right’

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Isaiah Thomas stood before the media throng on Friday afternoon at the Celtics’ practice facility and answered all the questions with the usual truthful tone sprinkled with a bit of humor.
 
But you could sense that he was still bitter about the results announced by the NBA on Thursday as to who will be the starters in next month’s All-Star Game.
 
Cleveland’s LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler were the frontcourt starters announced by the league. In the backcourt you will find Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, who finished in a tie with Thomas in this first season in which fans, media and players all have a say in who will be the game’s starting five, as opposed to past seasons in which the starters were chosen strictly by fans.
 
DeRozan and Thomas finished in a tie under the voting system, but DeRozan moved ahead of Thomas due to a tie-breaker (fan vote), in which DeRozan had about 41,000 more votes than Thomas.
 
“It’s not the end of the world; it’s all good,” said Thomas. “I was disappointed, but those guys deserve it as well. I did everything I could in my control to put myself in position to be a starter. It’s not the end of the world.”
 
Especially knowing that the coaches will vote him on to the team for the second year in a row.
 
But for Thomas to be even in the conversation speaks to how the league’s new system of choosing All-Star starters, makes the whole choosing of starters about more than just a popularity contest, which is the irony of Thomas being left off the starting five – it ultimately came down to DeRozan receiving more votes from fans than Thomas.
 
“I didn’t really look at it. I didn’t look at what the reason was, but it is what it is,” Thomas said. “I’ll use it as motivation. I have to get better. That’s all I took out of that. I’m not where I want to be.”
 
Thomas finished fourth in fan voting for the starting nod, but was second among players and first among Eastern Conference guards among the media.
 
“I appreciate everybody who voted for me, especially you [media] guys,” Thomas said. “The media showed me some love and then my peers showed me love too.”
 
But as far as coming so close to being an All-Star starter and not making it, Thomas said, “It hurts but I’ll be alright. I’ll use it as motivation and keep going.”
 
Thomas is having a banner season that has elevated his name and game into the conversation for the league’s MVP award that so far is being led by Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
 
He averages 28.7 points per game, which is tops among Eastern Conference players and fourth overall. 

Among his more notable accomplishments this season, he scored a franchise-record 29 points in the fourth quarter of a win over Miami, and in the same game, wound up scoring a career-high 52 points.
 
Thomas isn’t the only NBA player who has had a season that most would believe would result in him being an All-Star starter.
 
“You look in the west, [Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook] averages a triple-double and he didn’t get in [to start],” Thomas said. “I guess…I’ll let everybody debate for me and argue for me. Those guys that made it who start, they deserved it.”