Ratto: Sharks need to sharpen game for run at Cup

April 27, 2011, 1:51 am
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Hockey people hate the concept of style points. Always have, always will. They prefer the starker and more basic view -- Survive and advance. Fall and play golf.Well, tough. They can be correct with that as far as it goes, but there are different standards for different teams in different years. That is every bit as true as Survive and advance.RECAP: Sharks survive, oust Kings on Thornton's OT goal
So it is with the Sharks, triumphant in a manner of speaking over the Los Angeles Kings in a series that, for the Sharks liking, took too long, demanded too much exertions and exposed too many flaws to be an unqualified triumph.

I mean, the whole idea wasnt to stand glorious over a fallen seven-seed and howl, Hurray! Look what we did! The idea was, and is, to nuzzle up to the Stanley Cup, or in the alternative to at least closer than ever before.It was not to show Chicago, or Detroit, a potential goaltending issue, an ongoing defensive problem, or remind us all of the Sharks proud history of making their job more difficult than it needs be.RATTO: Sharks win it their way, the hard way
Indeed, as series victories go, this was among the least satisfying in Sharks history, rivaled only by the seven-gamer over Calgary three years ago when San Jose was also a two-seed, and a more comfortable one than they were this season. That went seven games, and the Sharks had to catch up twice and then get run in Game 6 before surviving and advancing in Jeremy Roenicks last fine moment as an NHL player.But this series, as much as it may have done to temporarily elevate Joe Thorntons reputation as a goal scorer, also took a toll on San Joses position as a Cup contender. Oh, they outshot the Kings, as they always seem to do, and they won the faceoff battles, as they always seem to do, and they showed just enough of what made them good in the second half to make one think they could do it again.But they also needed three overtime wins to advance. They got hammered on a night when the Kings were missing the very important Jarret Stoll. They got choke-slammed with a series clincher staring them in the face. They found cracks in Antti Niemis armor and cement in his leg pads, for all the long-distance rebounds he allowed. The defensive six only performed in fits and starts, and Dan Boyle, the best of them, struggled more than he ever has since arriving here. And their two worst games occurred at home, likely due to being overamped and less attentive to the details that separated them from the pack to begin with.They were, in short, not inspirational in victory. And maybe thats just the way they need to be -- this close to ignominy and rebuke. As comfortable as a fellow lounging on a razor-blade lounger. Always one bad turn away from another summer of finger-pointing and recrimination.Of course, thats what Sharks fans would like to think -- that their favorites are at their best when theyre at their worst. Its a nice fantasy, one that covers a multitude of sins.But logic demands another view -- that they spent too much time with the Kings for their own good, and that they have an awful lot to remedy if they are to stand an even chance against Detroit, or a better than average chance against Chicago. The arrogance of thinking your worst game somehow strengthens you is always dangerous, and the Sharks need humility now more than ever.In short, they did survive, and they did advance, but they didnt do it the way a champion does. They can still be considered one, but they have to be significantly better, dramatically more efficient, and hugely more receptive to the knowledge they fought for three months to obtain.That skill does not come before persistence or discipline, but after it. Learn that and live it, and they can survive and advance again. Ignore it, and live with the harsh consequences.Now those are style points.