Ratto: Canucks constrict Sharks to win in Game 1


Ratto: Canucks constrict Sharks to win in Game 1


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Todd McLellan put the end of San Joses night at the 17-minute mark of the second period. Before that, he said, they were doing well enough. After that, they got leg-heavy and brain-weary. They got, well, a little bit doggy.

I thought our team looked tired, sluggish, the San Jose head coach said as he surveyed the shards of Vancouver's 3-2 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. There are nights when we lose our legs, but our minds are still pretty sharp. I didn't think that was the case tonight. It started with the ears and worked all the way through the body. We were like dogs chasing cars down the freeway.

Well, woof, to coin a phrase. The cars arent going to go any slower, so the dogs better either find parked ones or get a better head start on the moving ones.

RELATED: Sharks drop Game 1, can't contend with Canucks' comeback

The underpinning of McLellans remarks was that somehow the weariness of the Detroit series suddenly grabbed them by the calves and cerebra with about three minutes left in the second period, and that the Canucks poised themselves to counterattack and win the day.

Well, OK. But thats pretty much how Vancouver usually does it, which is why the Canucks have home ice, and why they won Game 1.

What is more, the Canucks established signs earlier in the game that they were either fresher, more determined, or more properly wired for the kind of game that awaited them.

They won faceoffs, they didnt let the Sharks win and keep the offensive zone with any regularity, and they played well enough to keep the Sharks within arms reach even after goalie Roberto Luongos howler of a clearance, ostensibly aimed at Henrik Sedin but delivered neatly to Joe Thornton for the games first goal.

In short, San Jose got a gift, and didnt press its advantage . . . maybe because it couldnt. Maybe it was Motor City Syndrome, or the Seventh Game Blues.

PHT: Third period determines outcome of Game 1

Then again, all the other teams who came off seventh games this postseason won their next game except Philadelphia, which played Boston, also coming off a seven-game series.

More likely, the Sharks never established a hold of the game, and let the Canucks hang around long enough to do so. Thats way worse than We were tired from the Detroit series.

We put the puck into very poor spots, McLellan said, essentially revealing the lady behind the curtain. They eventually beat us at the type of game we wanted to play. They laid it in behind, they won a lot of races, they sustained offensive zone time.

And the cruncher?

We got to find a way to get energized as a hockey club, he said. That starts with the mental part of it first.

Oh, there were enough things to grumble about if the Sharks wanted to do so. Dany Heatley looked to have been hosed on an offside call as he was poised to break in alone on Luongo, and he also had an issue both during and after the game with the third period elbowing call he took on Raffi Torres that came between Kevin Bieksas tying goal at 7:02 of the third and Henrik Sedins game-winner at 8:21.

And everyone could add five penalties for the Sharks and one for the Canucks and turn it into a talking point.

But that obscures the greater truth of this series, revealed already for your enjoyment and edification.

The Sharks cannot win with Antti Niemi at the business end of a jai alai fronton. They cannot win by staying close. They have to win by establishing the parameters of the game early, and holding them throughout. They are playing a team with deeper talent, and the best way to negate that is to do more than start as the superior team. It is to maintain it.

I thought for 37 minutes we were able to skate, McLellan said. We needed to get a couple more opportunities to go in for us. Basically what happened, I thought the team that potentially was rusty -- because they hadn't played for a while -- found their legs while we lost ours.

When you look at the route we took to get here, they had a few days off. We had an emotional, taxing game. You know we're lucky enough to be playing.

One Shark who didnt play was defenseman Jason Demers, a pregame scratch that came as a surprise to most observers. He did come off the ice late in Game 7 of the Detroit series covering his ribs, but McLellan said only, He has bumps and bruises, like everyone else.

In his stead, Kent Huskins made his first appearance since February, and was not either an appreciable plus or minus. Ben Eager and Jamal Mayers were reunited on the fourth line on Scott Nichols flanks, and Eager had his most solid game of the postseason, with three purposeful shots, and a couple of Hi, nice to see you hits on Alexander Edler and Daniel Sedin.

But this was not a game of individual highs for the Sharks. They held their own again Ryan Keslers line, but the Sedin line combined for 11 shots and the two third period goals that punctuated what was being revealed well before that.

Playing Vancouver even is playing Vancouver from behind. Maybe Game 1 can be laid in part at the feet of the taxing Detroit series, but Game 2 cannot. Not if the Sharks plan to reach the finals.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.