Ratto: Sharks win it their way, the hard way


Ratto: Sharks win it their way, the hard way

Ray Ratto

LOS ANGELES -- In the frantic moments between joy and composure, Todd McLellan said it best, and fastest.

Its the Sharks, he said with a rueful laugh. Thats what we do.

That is scare themselves and everyone around them half-dead, and then sometimes to go all the way. Monday they stopped short.
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Joe Thorntons quick spin-and-shoot 2:22 into overtime propelled the Fins to a 4-3 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings, and a second-round date with one of their two most prominent nemeses, either Detroit or Chicago.

In fact, it was a big night for lot of Sharks who had been taking a bit of a lashing this postseason.
There was Thornton, who scored the game-winner by getting in front of defenseman Willie Mitchell and one-timed a shot off a clot in front of the net into a wide open net.

There was Dany Heatley, who had given the Sharks a 3-2 lead with a nasty one-timer off what he called a jump ball of a pass from Ryane Clowe at 8:48.

RATTO: Game 6 notebook

And there was the penalty kill, one of San Joses weakest links, rising to its best work in timing out a five-minute charging penalty to Jamie McGinn at 16:37 for running Brad Richardson that seemed to have doomed the Sharks to a seventh game and all the windpipe problems those brings.

The Kings had scored two of their first three goals on power plays, and McGinns mistake looked like the killer, though McLellan was conciliatory for the moment.

He did what we asked him to do, we wanted him to be aggressive, he said of McGinn. We obviously didnt want the penalty there, but we wanted him to be aggressive.

And they survived that aggression, as badly timed and egregious as it was. Next stop, the second round, where the battle gets exponentially harder.

The first period showed that the Sharks can be re-trained. They were smarter in their own end, quicker out of their own end, better at getting into the Kings passing lanes, used all four lines more than they had in the first five games, and put consistent pressure on the Los Angeles defense.

And . . . they got no goals. Again.

This time, they put 16 shots on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, making it 85 in the six first periods so far, with only a Dany Heatley score in Game 1 to show for all that hyperactivity. In fact, when you throw in blocked shots and missed shots, they threw 30 in Quicks direction, a sign of puck ownership that they did far well efficaciously in game 4.

But in terms of following instructions and resembling the team that raced through the second half of the regular season, they did fine. There is, after all, no other way for them to advance, and one got the feeling that the only way they could fail was to deviate from their first period performance.

Joe Pavelskis line was again the most active, and Pavelski the most singularly active, getting off five shots, most of them from close enough and with sufficient consequence to pass as good chances.

The Kings, on the other hand, got only one shot from its pest line of Brad Richardson, Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, as the Sharks did a much more thorough job of playing in all three zones.

It was also a more physical game than any of the others, with more purposeful hits in better context to the game than in any of the first five. Hits are a dodgy stat given that they awarded by home team stat crews, but the two teams combined for 42 (LA won, 26-16, in case you care), and it only stood to get crankier as the night went on.

The second period was closer, but it was also more wide open, resulting in goals from Kyle Wellwood and Jason Demers from San Jose and Justin Williams for L.A.

Wellwoods goal came after Joe Thornton retrieved his backhand and returned it to him for an open 18-footer from just inside the low hash at 2:58 that beat the de-sticked Jonathan Quick. Thornton, though, returned the work when he was flagged for a high-sticking double-minor at 11:04, and the Kings eventually turned it into the game-squarer. Williams followed a long rebound of a Jack Johnson drive and found the unguarded half of Antti Niemis net at 13:27.

The Kings were gathering momentum when Demers one-timed a pass from the right side by Pavelski and beat Quick at 16:52, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead they knew how to hold in the regular season (they were 19-1-2 in games allowing two or fewer goals since January 15). But those Sharks seem like a phenomenon of a thousand years ago; these seem destined to make you chew your nails to the second knuckle.

Worse for them, the Kings were finally hitting their stride after 30 minutes of being owned by the visitors. The Sharks would need a third goal to feel any comfort, and comfort is what they do worst of all.

Of course, they didnt get that before the Kings got their second, 18 seconds into the third period. Douglas Murrays clearing pass was cut off by Ryan Smyth, who then beelined it toward the net just ahead of Boyle, who was trying to collect Murrays clear, in time to follow Jarret Stolls right-angled shot to tie the game.

Dany Heatley then won the game at 8:48 with a nostalgically wicked snap shot off a wobbly Ryane Clowe pass that Brad Richardson couldnt clear, and Trevor Lewis won it back at 11:39 in the dying moments of a Jason Demers interference penalty, which was the second poorest decision of the period by a Shark.

The worst came at 16:37, when Jamie McGinn ran Richardson into the boards with a head shot in the Sharks offensive zone and got hit with a major and a game misconduct, giving the Kings a five-minute penalty and left the Sharks one man shorthanded thereafter. Even for those partisans who thought the punishment was excessive, the intent was clear, the distance from thought to execution was considerable, and the decision was unfathomably poor.

The Sharks killed off the first 3:23 of the penalty despite a couple of close calls, then went off for the start of overtime knowing that if they won this game, they would feel far more lucky than good.

Then again, Its the Sharks. Sounds almost like a sitcom, doesnt it?

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.