By Michael Felger
So the Bruins have advanced father in the playoffs than the Celtics.
Whats the word Im searching for?
Oh yeah, got it.
Hey Felger, I know we all want the Bruins to advance and, of course, hoist the Cup (preferably at TD Garden), but for pure drama this group over the last four weeks have knocked our Sox off!! Four straight overtime wins!! We'll all be dust before that ever happens again with the Bruins. The Bruins do have the feel of Red Sox pre-2004, that we expect the worst and exalt when they provide the best. Four o.t. wins. That's the best! Since the Miami Heat are handling the Celtics, the Bruins are critical for our continued enjoyment well into Spring. Dan Chicopee
How scary is that? The only thing standing between me and talking about the Red Sox' starting rotation for four hours a day for the next three months is . . . the Bruins?
Look, Im happy where theyre at, but thats a scary prospect.
Felger, Who is going to step up for the Bruins? Who do you like the most? Is there any one player . . . or none? Art Dover, NH
The answer is usually none. But I'll give you one: David Krejci. He thinks he's a star. He always promises to bring his best when it matters most. And up until that Montreal playoff series, he had usually done that. He was the B's best player in the postseason. He was terrific at the Olympics. He wants to be that guy. So let's see it, David.
Felger, The big problem with Bergeron being out is going to be Recchi! Without Bergeron to cover his behind, we'll see what his plusminus will be. He's 43, short and white. Sounds like the press box at TD Garden. How long are you going to keep giving him a free pass? Sam Portland, Maine
Recchi is white? Why didn't anyone tell me? In that case we're cooked.
Seriously, if I were Claude I'd spell Recchi more than they do. It's obvious he can't always keep up with the fresh legs of Marchand and Bergeron (and now Kelly). Spell Recchi with Peverly or Paille for a few shifts in the first and second periods. Let Recchi catch up.
Mike, I know he has two overtime game-winners and is generally considered to be having a good playoffs, but I think Horton's game benefits more from OT and poor goaltending than any other player on the ice. His first shot is consistently at ice level, which means a rebound is required if you ever want to see him go top shelf. Philly's goaltending doesn't even bother making him do that leaving openings all over the ice from the five hole on out. Also, this guy's main skill set seems to be being big.'' The first two periods he usually floats around looking slow and sloppy getting pushed off pucks, but as the game wears on, his skill set (being big) just isn't subject to fatigue like everyone else's. I think the reason that he is so much better in overtime is that everyone else loses some power, speed and skill, but his skill set (being big) remains unaffected. Everyone else becomes slower and sloppier with fatigue . . . but he is still big. Perhaps you assess this players game differently? If so how? Peace, Jake Boston
Well, I think we saw this season just why he was available in the first place. Guys with his size, skill and pedigree (third overall pick in 2003) just aren't traded for Dennis Wideman and a low first-round pick unless there's an issue. And Horton's issue is clear: Michael Ryder-itis.
But he's been pretty good in the playoffs. Not great. But pretty good. Everyone would like to see him throw his weight around more and be a more explosive finisher, but that's just not who is he. Unfortunately.
What can I say, Mikey? It's getting harder and harder to complain about something. Being a Bruins fan, I'm not quite used to this. But I am one of the those Seguin people, so now it's time to see what the kid's got -- and I'm very much looking forward to it. Maybe we'll be lucky and see him raise his game and put a few in the net. I'm by no means expecting it, but great players elevate their play in these types of situations and maybe we will see something. Just maybe! There is one thing that I'm very worried about, though, and that's the massive amount of time off. Two years ago against Carolina, it killed them. So how do you think they'll come out and play at the beginning of this series? Dave Woburn
As for the layoff, they are taking a different approach to it from the last time. I remember interviewing Mark Stuart out at Comcast between the Montreal and Carolina series two years ago and he looked like he just came from a three-day bender in Key West. In other words, the players got too much time off that season. This year, Claude has given them only a few days off and is working them harder. We'll see if this approach works better.
And Seguin? I think you're going to be disappointed.
Felger, What's with all these people, including KPD, saying the Bruins should've started Tuukka for Game 4? Are they nuts? To me there's very little upside and a whole lot of downside to that idea. It's just crazy. Luckily in that sense, Claude is a stick-with-it kind of guy. Drew Dudley
Playing Tuukka against the Flyers was the single worst idea I've heard since the Perkins trade. Dumb. They're worried about resting Thomas? How about sweeping the Flyers and giving Thomas eight days? Doesn't that seem like a better plan?
Hey, Felger! Congrats to the Bruins. That was definitely the best brand of hockey they've played in a real long time. After Game 1 it was obvious the Bruins wanted it more and actually may have been the more talented team. A healthy Pronger may have made it go maybe to six games, but the Bruins really deserved it. Unfortunately, a borderline cheap hit will cost them their best player for the remaining games. It has become far more clear that concussions are not a shake-it-off'' injury anymore. If and when Bergeron is cleared, his level of play will not be what it has been. Too bad because, full strength, they had a shot to be in the finals. But if Thomas can stand on his head and steal one they still have a shot. It is great hockey, though. Something sorely missed in these parts for a long, long time. Also, you're stuck with Claude now. And maybe after all the guff he's taken, that won't be so bad. Steve Chester, NH
Claude's been better, no question. We've seen less of the fourth line. He's given more ice to the players who've deserved it (Kelly, Seidenberg) and taken it away from those who don't (Kaberle). What a novel concept!
But on Bergeron, the more I hear, the more it sounds like they are definitely expecting him back this round. What I'm hearing is that it's not just a mild concussion -- it's a really mild concussion. I believe they've started the clock on him. In another five days he'll begin to work out, and if he comes through that fine, I think you'll see him back soon after.
Mike, Nothing more pathetic and ridiculous when a team loses a game they should win, than to have the analyst say, "Miami is a better team." Thats not Green Teaming, thats flat-out bad journalism. If you lose in seven games on the road to Miami, or get blown out in four of five games, you can say they were better. But you dont lose a game at home when you turn the ball over countless times, miss a WIDE-open layup with 40 seconds left, and screw up the last regulation-time possession . . . and then say they were just better. Just like I refuse to say the Jets were the better team in January. Nope, 14-2, home game, last matchup 45-3 -- you choked. The Celts choked and the Patriots choked. For all the success of the earlier part of the decade, we now have had the Celtics lose two Game 7s and probably this series; the Patriots blow an AFC Championship Game, a Super Bowl, and a divisional playoff game at home; the Red Sox lose a Game 7 in 2008, and get swept in 2009. The Bruins had the 3-0 disaster last year but have now become the last hope for the time being. Or we might be right back in Loserville. George Woburn
Again, the only thing standing between Boston and a return to "loserville" is . . .the Bruins? Egads.
Felger, Saying that Rondo getting walked off the court by trainers after a dislocated elbow is "drama"? I would pay money to see how you would act with your arm bent the wrong way. Even worse, you try to compare it to Bergeron getting a mild concussion. That is so weak. You sound like a high school kid arguing in the lunch room. Ken Waltham
I'm just glad KG was there to tell Rondo to keep breathing. We might have lost Rajon altogether. Where was the wheelchair when we needed it?
Felger, Too bad you and your "knowledgeable" brothers cannot spot an NFL leg whip on Rondo's takedown by Wade. Along with the arm lock, it looked like a deliberate intent to injure, an NHL penalty. Certainly a deliberate attempt at something that you experts can't see or identify! George Massachusetts
It was dirty, no question. Frankly, given the sensibilities of the Green Teamers around here, I'm surprised Wade hasn't been vilified more than he has.
Hi, MikeI'm a huge fan of the show. I'm not sure if you saw this today, but here is an interesting article in regards to the Patriots' recent draft history. Regards, Bill
And this . . .
Mike, I saw this article today by Cold Hard Football Facts.com re: grading out the decade of drafting for each team. Guess who is No. 1? Thats right -- our beloved Patriots. And guess who is only a C-plus? Felgers favorite team -- the Jets. Thanks very much, Dan
Bruce Allen at Boston Sports Media Watch wrote on this, too. I'll respond here.
In the e-mail exchange Bruce displays, I clearly state that I'm going by the last FIVE YEARS. Obviously, the Pats drafted well in the early part of last decade. Whoever said they didn't? Tom Brady, Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Deion Branch, Asante Samuel, Vince Wilfork, etc. That record is established and beyond dispute. Are the Pats the best drafting team of the last decade? Sure, especially given the weight of that Brady pick. The folks at Cold Hard Football Facts and ESPN wont get an argument from me.
But just look at their drafts here. It's pretty clear that the Pats "team of the decade" status at the draft was achieved mostly on the strength of their boards from 2001-2005.
I think its perfectly reasonable to look at the span of 2006-2010 as well. Its more recent, and its a big enough sample to make some clear judgments. And given that sample, I'm not sure the Pats are even the best drafting team in the AFC East, never mind the NFL.
To wit: Here are the best of the Jets (you knew this was coming, didnt you?) picks over the last five years: Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris, Dustin Keller, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Leon Washington (now gone).
Here's the best of the Pats picks: Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Pat Chung, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Meriweather.
I left out the busts on both teams (Vernon Gholston, for example; or Chad Jackson, for another). And I've also left out the marginal picks. Both teams have had plenty. I've focused solely on what could be described as the best'' picks from each team, players who have emerged to be key factors on their respective rosters. Eight apiece.
Which group is better? It's close, certainly. But to me, I'd rather have the Jets group because of Revis. Next to Brady, he's the single most impactful player in the division.
In his story Bruce refers to the Pats eight consecutive seasons of double-digit wins, implying its a barometer of their strong drafts. That seems like a reach. Were those records primarily the result of the excellence of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, or were they the result of their drafts?
Id go with the former, but whatever. If thats the standard, then well remain consistent with it.
The Jets are 3-2 against the Pats in the past five meetings and have advanced father in the playoffs in each of the last two years. In the game that mattered most -- in the playoffs at Gillette -- the Jets prevailed decisively. Using that win-loss criteria, does that then mean the Jets have drafted better recently?
Either way, the Jets have proven there is more than one way to do it. They consistently trade up (that's how they got Revis, Sanchez, Greene and Harris). They don't let rookie bonus money be an obstacle. And the last time I checked they aren't in that mythical place we keep hearing about, "salary cap jail." Its worked for them.
Don't be so sensitive. The Pats drafted very well early last decade. They are terrific at moving around the board and accumulating picks. But the players theyve actually selected over the last five years? I think spotty is a pretty fair word for it.
Hey, FelgerI may get blasted for this by the footy-pajama Patriots Nation, but do you think it's time to consider stripping Belichick of his fulltotal control GM duties? There is no other coach I'd rather have in the world than Belichick, but his moves and drafts as a GM have been pretty poor recently, except for the 2010 draft that yielded McCourty, Gronk, Hernandez, and Spikes. I'm not saying to bring in a GM that has total control, but maybe a guy to challenge Belichick's moves like Pioli or Dimitroff could. Just like last year when we wanted an established defensive coordinator and questioned if Matt Patricia was really in a position to challenge Belichick's ideasschemes, the same thing applies to the team-building process: Is Nick Caserio really in a position to challenge Belichick's authority in the draft and team building process? Belichick is one of the best in the business at collecting draft picks, there's no doubt about it. But his philosophy of continually trading down and out for value instead of trading up for talent has hurt this team. Personally, I think Belichick is one of the most overrated personnel guys in the NFL when it comes to the draft. All of these second- and third-round picks, and not enough production in my mind. Butler, Brace, Tate, McKenzie, Wheatley, Crable, O'Connell, Chad Jackson, Dave Thomas. Not to mention first-round whiffs like Maroney and Meriweather (whose two Pro Bowl selections are LAUGHABLE). Interestingly, the best return they've gotten on a second-round pick is Wes Welker. I'd almost rather do what the Jets do, trading picks for proven talent (Cromartie, Jenkins, Holmes, Edwards) that produces for two or three years, as opposed to using all these picks in the draft and spending two or three years waiting to see if ANY of them are somewhat decent. A perfect example of this: The Jets trade a conditional third that can turn into a second for Cromartie to fill their need at cornerback. To fill the needed left at CB after Asante left, the Patriots signed over-the-hill JAG's (Webster, Bryant, O'Neal) and spent multiple picks in the draft (Butler, Wheatley, Wilhite). Finally, they found Bodden in free agency and McCourty in the first round, but it was the third straight year that Bill had to use a top 64 pick on a CB. Sorry Bill, that's not good value in my eyes -- just a lot of wasted resources that could have been spent retooling this weak front-7 on defense. In the end, it's a shame because Brady only has a few years left at the top of his game, and Belichick is not doing enough to maximize that window of opportunity. JP
Why you so upset? Dont you realize the Pats were the best drafting team of the past decade?
Seriously, though: Not a good idea. For as much scrutiny as I think Belichick deserves for his drafts the last FIVE YEARS, Id be terrified if he ever gave up control or moved on. You never know what would come next. All Bill has to do is produce more drafts like 2009 and fewer like 2006 and hes all set.
Felger, You DB! The Bruins are in the Conference Finals. Just let that sink in for a moment. Conference Freaking Finals. I remember vividly sitting with my Dad in the lodge at The Real Garden as we watched the Penguins finish off the Bruins during Game 4 of the Prince of Wales Conference finals in devastating fashion. A lone goal by Stephen Leach (who I still despise on principle because of the Burridge deal) was all they could muster in a hopeless effort to stave off the Mario's star-laden juggernaut. As I walked out of the barn that night, I wondered what Harry would do to help us get past the Penguins next year. I never imagined for one second that it would take almost two decades to make it back to Lord Stanley's doorstep. But after nineteen long and mostly frustrating years, the Bruins are one step away from playing for the "Big Trophy." And I'll be damned if a team from Tampa Bay is going to stop them. No, no and no. It is not in any way shape or form acceptable to be beaten by a team from a city that is largely a sports joke. First off all, there are no "real" Tampa fans. These are all transplants who couldn't care less about the local teams. And even when the home teams are winning, they might not give a rats ass. Evan Longoria and David Price called it "embarrassing" when only 12,000 Rays fans showed up to watch them clinch the A.L. East. The NFL team plays it's home games in a stadium that essentially doubles a Pirates of the Caribbean attraction to keep the yokels interested. And then there is the Lightning. This was a team that couldn't pay people to watch Roman Hamrlik dive back in 1992, let alone watch Hockey. They were far more interested in seeing international sensation Manon Rhaume make her NHL exhibition debut. But once the hordes of slack jawed locals realized that she was a player covered in pounds of equipment, the prospect of sticking fists full of singles between buckles of her Vaughns lost its luster quickly. And like some sort of cruel joke, this den of Sports indifference actually won a Cup. Nothing personal against any of the players on that Lightning team, but if you call yourself a Hockey fan and you weren't rooting for the Calgary Flames, the Hockey gods should curse your daughters with Lanny McDonald's facial hair. And the worst part is they are all wannabe Habs! Their faux fans do the "Ole, ole ole ole chant. Their coach is a product of the Montreal Canadiens who runs a trap and the team embellishes contact to draw penalties. If I am going to lose a playoff series to a bunch of floppers with an annoying fan base, I'd rather they be authentic, card-carrying, Anglo-hating separatist Francophone's than some Epcot Center French pavilion stand ins! Bettman should just move this team to Quebec tomorrow. Any team within 100 miles of Disney that schedules Toy Story on Ice during the NHL playoffs should just close up shop and let Buzz Lightyear and Woody entertain the humanoids year round because they clearly care more about buying cups with mouse ears as handles than winning Lord Stanley's version. And speaking of winning the Cup, if San Jose chokes against the Red Wings, the B's chances get a lot slimmer. What are the odds Dorothy can get the Wizard to give this guy some heart by 9:00 PM tonight?
So youre saying one of the only things standing between us and the Bs best chance at a Cup in 41 years is . . . a clutch performance by Joe Thornton?
God help us.
Read Felgers weekly column on Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m, on 98.5 the Sports Hub.