Sharks may be hot, but hockey spits on momentum

726818.jpg

Sharks may be hot, but hockey spits on momentum

The first few days of the Stanley Cup Playoffs are spent going through the handy-dandy record book looking for historical hints to lead one through the early traps.

It is a useless exercise, though. There is nothing more immediate and less history-based than the Stanley Cup. Even regular season form is often a lie, even if recent looks through the playoff brackets show us that seven-seeds, just to pick something the Sharks are, go down almost three-quarters of the time.

But there is one thing that is actually a real nag for San Jose the penalty kill. No team has been this bad killing shorthanded situations and made the playoffs in 15 years; in 1997, both the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens made the playoffs despite being the worst penalty killers in the league. Before that, the 94 Sharks managed a similar feat.

Thus, while Todd McLellan has already trained the boys to play the underdog card as though they had a deck full of them, the truth is that this is the biggest reason they are underdogs. They stink when the other team has more players.

And with St. Louis having the best home record in the league, and with officials having a hard time resisting the charms of the home team as a general rule, the Sharks will be underdogs until they can reconcile these two facts:

1. They play shorthanded fewer than any other team.

2. They give up the 12th most goals when shorthanded.

Thats fairly awful, and on details like this against a highly disciplined and organized team like St. Louis, the Sharks will either have to cure themselves of something that has afflicted them all year long, or take the pipe quickly and quietly.

San Jose won seven of its last nine games to save itself from golf, and St. Louis lost nine of its final 13 to blow the Presidents Trophy, so momentum presumably is with the Sharks.

But no sport spits on momentum quite like hockey. Every game is different, and wildly so; perhaps you should break down the Sharks-Kings series from last spring for verification of this truth.

This series, rather, will break down on the details, because St. Louis under Ken Hitchcock is all about details and his team is more devoted to them than anyone else in the West. Vancouver wins with speed and improvisation. Phoenix wins with a relentless grinding noise. Nashville wins with the best goalie (Pekka Rinne) and the two best defensemen (Shea Weber and Ryan Suter). Detroit wins on muscle memory.

But San Jose wins by the skin of its incisors, mastering the art of timely inconsistency and the adrenaline of desperation. The Sharks have a power play worthy of the name, a strong top six and a slowly improving third and fourth lines.

But they have done this without any form or sense to their season. Their best advertisement is that they failed to fail, and that they got it right enough often enough at the last possible minute.

And winning teams spot the weakness for which losing teams cannot compensate.

Are the Sharks doomed? No. Those 97 Rangers beat Florida (New York was a five-seed, in case youre asking) and New Jersey (the one-seed) before going down to Philadelphia. And those 94 Sharks popped Detroit as an eight-seed before being schooled by Toronto (when Toronto didnt stink).

But the betting man doesnt like these odds. The betting man may worry that St. Louis hasnt got enough experience on this stage, but he doesnt like the Sharks for more tangible reasons. The betting man would pass on this series entirely.

You, the non-betting fan, cant pass, though. Youre in, come hell or 5-on-3s. Just dont be surprised when the reward for finishing seventh is the traditional one a keychain and a hearty Thanks for playing our game.

Cousins buys chocolate from kids for charity, donates bars to flight staff

Cousins buys chocolate from kids for charity, donates bars to flight staff

DeMarcus Cousins leads the NBA in technical fouls. He also leads the league in scowls and he’s even kicked over a few garbage cans following the Kings' loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. But that’s just a small portion of who he is.

According to a source that travels with the team, Cousins went out of his way Sunday morning to make an impact in the lives of a couple of local youth in Chicago.

Kids were selling chocolate bars outside the team’s hotel trying to earn money for charity. Plenty of people walked by, avoiding the youth, but Cousins stopped, reached into his pocket and purchased all of the boxes they had to sell.

Later on in the day, Cousins donated the candy to the flight service staff for use on the flight to Detroit.

Cousins gets plenty of negative press for his antics on the floor, but off the court, he is extremely generous. He plays Santa-Cuz during the holidays, buying gifts for underprivileged children in Sacramento and his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. He has also purchased a new scoreboard for a local high school and even paid for the funeral of a local high school football player who lost his life in a drive-by shooting.

No one is perfect, Cousins included, but he also has a genuinely good side that he often doesn’t seek or receive press for.

 

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His uncertain status has led to speculation presumptive 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will be interested in acquiring him in the offseason.

On Sunday, Cousins got a first-hand look at his former coach’s offense.

Cousins posted a photo on Instagram from the stands at the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense blasted the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship game.

Cousins wrote the caption, “Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!”

Washington finished third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record.

Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, coached Cousins for the first two seasons of his NFL career with Washington on the staff of his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins appeared in just eight games with four starts in 2012 and ’13.

Cousins' career has taken off in the past two seasons while starting all 32 regular-season games. He completed 67 percent of his passes this season with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.

Washington placed the franchise tag on Cousins this season at nearly $20 million. He franchise tag is expected to be approximately $24 million in 2017.

If Washington places the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, a team could sign him to an offer sheet at the cost of two first-round draft picks or negotiate a trade with Washington for a lesser amount.