Matt Kemp probably won't be winning MVP now

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Matt Kemp probably won't be winning MVP now

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers placed center fielder Matt Kemp on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday for the second time this month because of a left hamstring strain. And this time, the training staff is going to make sure there are no recurrences when he returns to the lineup. Kemp went 1 for 4 with a double in two games since being reinstated from the disabled list on Tuesday. He left Wednesday night's game against Milwaukee after scoring all the way from first base on a first-inning double by Andre Ethier. "He has a little bit of swelling in the same area, as well as a new strain in a higher part of that hamstring," said Sue Falsone, who is in her first year as the club's head athletic trainer after spending the previous five seasons as the team's physical therapist. "They're both Grade-1s, which means that there's not a lot of muscle fiber tear. It's the lowest grade of a muscle strain, so that's good news. But having multiple strains in one muscle, obviously it's going to be a little bit longer from a rehab standpoint. So we're just going to take it day-by-day." Falsone said the best-case scenario for Kemp is four weeks before he can play again. He spent two weeks on the disabled list the first time the hamstring bothered him and when he got back to the dugout after his latest mishap, he broke a bat over his knee in frustration. "It's nobody's fault," Kemp said after Wednesday's game. "I was happy to be back. It felt great, and I thought I was 100 percent. But now I'm going to be sitting out a while. It feels worse than the first time. This is my first time ever really having any hamstring problems, so I don't know how to really treat it. I know they're very tricky and they can always come back. So I definitely have to take it slow and make sure it's healed." Kemp was leading the league with 12 home runs when he aggravated the hamstring running out a grounder May 13 against Colorado -- ending his consecutive games streak at 399. He played in two rehab games with Triple-A Albuquerque over the weekend, going 5 for 7 with two homers and five RBIs. "We have benchmarks and milestones in place, and he achieved all of them or he wouldn't have been out there playing," Falsone said. "But I don't think you can say that the first strain caused the second strain. So we'll put him through all the same rigors that we did before -- all the baserunning, all the deceleration stuff -- but we're just going to take longer to do it." Los Angeles entered Thursday with a major league-best 32-18 record and a 5-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West despite their first three-game losing streak. And with Kemp's bat missing from the third spot in the order, the Dodgers will be hard-pressed to fill the void on a long-term basis. "It's frustrating for everybody," Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said. "We all feel bad for Matt. I know nobody feels worse than he does. He wants to play -- bad. It's never easy for the team to deal with when your superstar's out. But at the same time, the games keep coming. So you've got to keep playing and keep grinding." "This is our first tough stretch of the year, but we'll come out of it and we'll be better for it," said. "We don't know how long Matt's going to be out, but we've got to play like we did the first time he was out, and the guys who stepped up have got to keep doing that." Kemp, who finished runner-up to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun in last year's NL MVP voting, is batting .355 with 28 RBIs in 36 games. Last season, he hit .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBIs -- falling one homer shy of becoming only the fifth player in big league history with at least 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in the same season. "We thought Matt was ready to roll," manager Don Mattingly said. "We wouldn't have thrown him out there if we didn't think he was a hundred percent -- or if he didn't think he was a hundred percent. This should be a challenging time for us. It's the time you find out what kind of club you are and what kind of character you have. We were pretty resilient for a couple of weeks when Matt was out (9-5), and guys stepped up and did their thing. And we're going to have to do it again." The Dodgers promoted second baseman-outfielder Alex Castellanos from Triple-A Albuquerque. Castellanos, who will be making his major league debut, was hitting .379 with 10 doubles, four triples, five homers and 14 RBI in 22 games with Albuquerque.

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.

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.