Big O Tires

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

Melodrama demands that San Jose’s exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs be portrayed as the very likely end of the Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau Era.

It probably won’t work that way, and probably shouldn't as will be explained further down your reading, but when you get shoved out of the postseason in your own building, melancholy is the order of the day. Even if the melancholy isn’t for any player in particular, but for an entire era.

Nobody will blame Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on bad luck (although Joe Pavelski going crossbar/post on the final power play of their season was close enough to it), or unjust officiating, or even lousy ice (though that was a fairly clear by-product for those who like their hockey a little less sticky). Edmonton took advantage of two critical Sharks errors 56 seconds apart in the second period, Oiler goaltender Cam Talbot cheated the gods multiple times when the Sharks weren’t vomiting up chances on their own, and young legs joined up with growing know-how to make this a just outcome.

But for Thornton and Marleau, a quick round of 30-on-1 interviews asking them if they thought their days in Finville Heights had finally come to an end were their mutual introduction to yet another unfulfilling offseason.

And a team whose core is among the league’s oldest was just exposed for that very flaw by a team that, in head coach Todd McLellan’s words, “Grew up, learned how to get into the playoffs, how to get a lead, how to play with it, and how to deal with a desperate team at the end of a game. Now we’ll see what they have to learn next.”

That learning will comes against the Anaheim Ducks, who are 15-0-3 in their last 18 games, including four straight against the Calgary Flames.

As for the rest of it, Edmonton earned its advancement without a big series, or even a single big game, from Connor McDavid. Rather, their difference makers were Talbot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (whose work with Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic against the Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski line was the defining matchup) Leon Draisaitl (after a rocky start), Oskar Klefbom (their best defenseman), Zack Kassian (who made the most of his 15 minutes of fame), and Drake Caggiula (whose promotion to the McDavid line at the expense of Patrick Maroon helped wake up Draisaitl).

Plus, McLellan finally got to deliver a rebuttal for his firing by the Sharks two years ago. He didn’t, of course, at least not where anyone could hear it, but the exploding fumigant of the 2015 season never sat right with him as the one who paid the full retail price. Now, with this result, he can let the NHL’s Stanley Cup media guide do the talking for him.

That, and having the team of the future, while San Jose is trying to sort out its past. This is a closing window, one which stayed open a very long time and actually pried itself back open a year ago for the run that took them to the Cup final, but it is now clear that they play at a pace the modern game has outrun. Thornton is still hugely important (he remained an impact player despite the leg injury that cost him Games 1 and 2), and there are no clear young replacements for the central group.

This is why all the melodramatic speculations about Thornton and Marleau in particular and perhaps the entire era ignore one central truth – there are not nearly enough replacements for a reboot, or even a course correction. They may be stuck as what they are – a group whose veterans are still their best players, playing a game that younger and faster players are likely to do better. The Pacific Division, being easily the thinnest of the four, may allow one more year of status quo, but while the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, the method is now clear.

And Edmonton, young, impetuous, sprightly and McLellanized Edmonton, has been the instrument of San Jose’s education.

Bumgarner on the DL is the biggest of gut punches for Giants

Bumgarner on the DL is the biggest of gut punches for Giants

Giants fans will never look at a Madison Bumgarner truck ad again without having a violent twitch. After all, now that he’s been beaten up by a dirt bike, who knows what nefarious danger he’s courting in an actual pickup?

Bumgarner, the heart, soul, spleen and pancreas of the San Francisco rotation, is going to miss the next six to eight weeks (the neighborhood of a third of the season) after a dirt bike accident that resulted in a sprained left shoulder and bruised ribs and got him shipped to the disabled list.

In other words, he screwed with the moneymaker, and now the company is locked in a duel with their own worst thoughts.

This should logically take most Giants aficionados, including supervisors and employees, back to that fun-filled evening in 2011 when Buster Posey got trucked by Scott Cousins in a home-plate collision. Or, more distantly, Jeff Kent’s famous O’Rielly Auto Parts loofa injury of 15 years ago.

In fact, if you toss in Posey getting beaned earlier this year, some fans – typically those who believed that even years are somehow magic for them simply by virtue of being divisible by two – will doubtless conclude that the Giants are beset with season-destroying juju that makes low run support seem like skin lotion on an ashy elbow.

Of course, what we’ve done here is taken an internal combustion-related injury, merged it with a heart-of-the-franchise injury and come up with Bumgarner zigging on a dirt bike when sagging was clearly indicated. In fact, the three are unrelated, as anyone with a working knowledge of time and causation/correlation would understand.

But the immediate effect is that the Giants now have a gaping hole in the starting rotation, the thing that was supposed to indemnify him from the roster’s other holes. The team’s working plan, to hold Ty Blach is reserve until it gets a better sense of Matt Cain’s value, is now in shreds, and general manager Bobby Evans now gets to know exactly what Brian Sabean felt in 2011, and what he came close to feeling in 2002.

In other words, now Evans gets to know why general managers drink.

Now there may be more story here, as there was with the Kent cover tale in ’02. Or it may be as simple as Posey’s story in ’11, which couldn’t really be embellished much since it happened under high-visibility lighting.

Either way, the good news here is that if Bumgarner was going to hurt himself, 16 games into the season beats 106 games into the season. Unless the shoulder is damaged significantly (and there’s no need to get out over your medical skis until you need to, kids), the Giants will have time to minimize whatever damage there is to their year. In other words, if eight weeks turns to 12, this is a body blow to a team withgout a lot of margin for body blows.

And maybe Bumgarner, chastened by this incident, will give up any future plans for punching out a cow, wrestling a bear or juggling tractor motors to a medley of Blake Shelton songs.

That’s the good news, as we say. The bad news . . . well, you know that one. So does Buster Posey. We need not get into greater detail.

Yet.

Only thing wrong with ending of Sharks-Oilers Game 5 was that it ended

Only thing wrong with ending of Sharks-Oilers Game 5 was that it ended

The beauty and the problem with Thursday night’s Stanley Cup first round game between Edmonton and San Jose is that as indisputably and manically entertaining as it was, it disappears almost immediately as the audience searches for a better overtime game, and the sooner it happens, the better.

And before anyone starts getting snippy about the outcome, Edmonton winning was the right outcome based on the state of play and especially the state of the overtime. David Desharnais’ winner 105 seconds from the beginning of a second overtime ended a period in which the Oilers outshot the Sharks, 14-2, won twice as many faceoffs, spent almost the entire time in the San Jose end of the rink and made Sharks goalie Martin Jones work like a rented mule. What should have happened, did.

The only thing that was wrong with the ending was, well, that it ended. This deserved multiple overtimes. This deserved, well, a minimum of three . . . oh, the hell with it, five. And then Desharnais could finish it off.

The difference, of course, is that people talk about five-overtime games the next day, and the day after that. Maybe it’s mostly pretending to be torqued off that they couldn’t stay up for all of it because of anemic excuses like needing sleep or working the next day or getting to the hospital for the birth of their first child.

They’ll forget this one, as indisputably good as it was, because there’s usually another one right down the road.

This was the 13th overtime game of the playoffs, in only nine days and 35 games. It’s the most in any first round since 2001, and there are still six series and a potential 13 more games still to play if those series all go seven.

Which I grant you is unlikely.

Still, the gentlemen are well on their way to breaking the single-season OT record of 28, set in 1993, and since we can agree that Stanley Cup hockey is among the finest forms of entertainment ever granted us by the Watchers of the Universe, this can only be good, right?

We-e-e-l-l-l-l-l-l-l . . .

Only one of the 13 games, Toronto-Washington 2, has gone to a second overtime. That’s simply insufficient because, as we know from our research, tension builds exponentially with the onset of exhaustion. There’s a mathematical formula for this; trust us on this, or go ask a math major, or make up one of your own.

But the point of an overtime is that it takes something good and makes it better by making it last an excruciatingly long time. Conversely, a game like Boston-Ottawa 2, when Dion Phaneuf scored for the Senators after only 1:59, seems hardly worth the trouble of the Zamboni ride.

The fact that we haven’t had more than one multiple-overtime game with so many candidates from which to choose is frankly a disappointment for which there is no real recourse. I mean, you know NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s not going to do anything about it, what with being too busy trying to convince people that hockey in Phoenix can work and pretending there’s no brain trauma issue in the sport and all.

So we’re simply going to have to hope that the players can take matters into their own gloves and provide what we all know we really want – hockey all night. Even if it means Mike Emrick’s larynx shoots out of his mouth from sheer exhaustion, or Sidney Crosby gets stuck trying to climb over the boards because his leg muscles have cramped from overuse. It’s the price they must be ready to pay for our late-night/early-morning amusement.

As for those folks who worry about things like deadlines – you know, those creepy media types we all hate – pipe down. You signed on for this. If you want to be home early, go cover golf. You should want to serve the higher and more noble purpose of the game that never ends. Let baseball worry about pace of play; hockey has all the pace it can possibly handle. It just needs more play.

So it is that there are a minimum of six games this weekend. Surely one of them can go deep for us, if only so we can say “We stuck out that Canadiens-Rangers game that went until 2 a.m. in the east (which is 11 p.m. in the civilized world).”

And even if the multi-multi-multiple overtime game is Oilers-Sharks 6, which begins at 7:30 Pacific, well, laissez le bon temps roulet. Because here’s the real secret about long hockey games that nobody, whether they be players, coaches, officials or fans, really wants to admit.=

It isn’t like you have anything better to do.