Ratto: Dirty hit mars Sharks' Game 1 victory


Ratto: Dirty hit mars Sharks' Game 1 victory

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

On a night with too many close calls and one noteworthy non-call, Kyle Wellwood made the best call, and the easiest one, to give the Sharks a 3-2 overtime win over Los Angeles Thursday night in Game 1 of this Western Conference quarterfinal series.Wellwood broke out with Ryane Clowe on an odd-man break deep into the overtime period, got the perfect pass from Clowe and turned it into the perfect pass to Joe Pavelski for the game-winner 14:44 into extra time, and springing the Sharks to a quick but painful advantage in this series.The painful part had come much earlier, when Kings center Jarret Stoll drove defenseman Ian Whites head into the glass behind the San Jose net 26 seconds from the end of the first period. White wobbled to the bench and was helped to the dressing room, where he remained through the rest of the evening while the Sharks soldiered on a defenseman down.
NEWS: Sharks edge Kings on Pavelski's O.T. winner
But it took a play from Clowe, taking the puck from Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, to give the Sharks the escape they needed before Whites absence wore the rest of the team to a nub.Basically, Martinez tried to jump through and make a play, and I think he might have fallen down, but Clowie got the puck off his stick, Wellwood said as he described Pavelskis game-winner as well as Clowes third assist. He saw that the guys who were back were (Wayne) Simmonds and the other defenseman (Matt Greene), and he just went at them and I followed, and I figured when he got me the puck that I had time to make a play.
VIDEO: Game highlights
And Pavelski, who trailed the play as trained to do, took a gentle and accurate pass from Wellwood and beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with a 24-foot wrist shot to give the Sharks are harder-fought-than-they-might-have-hoped victory.We had a 3 on 2, and Wellie just put the puck right on my stick, and I just had to make a play on it, Pavelski said. I was aiming, definitely. I didnt just let it go.The goal ended a mutually-agreed-upon hit-fest that saw 80 shots, 45 from the Sharks despite a 15-minute stretch in the second and third periods where they got none at all, and it also relieved the Sharks of the growing burden of playing without White.White was taken to the dressing room and evaluated constantly during the rest of the evening by Sharks doctors. He not only did not return, he may not be available for Saturdays Game 2.It didnt look good, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. We got a very good look at it; there was a camera right behind the glass. The good thing is, it will be dealt with by the league. But its disappointing because he is obviously very important to us, and because Jarret Stoll is a hell of a player.
VIDEO: Todd McLellan postgame
The hit, though, drew no penalty from either Brad Watson or Greg Kimmerly, both of whom seemed to be screened from a good enough look based on replays.What I would like to have seen is for there to be a penalty called on the play, McLellan said, sidestepping the idea of a suspension for Stoll for what looked to be exactly the kind of hit the league has been trying to crack down upon since midseason. But we have no control over it now. Its in the hands of the league.Whether the league chooses to discipline a player as important as Stoll in a playoff series is an open question, but the Sharks plan to take all of Friday and as much of Saturday as they feel necessary to decide if White can play in Game 2 or beyond. The logical replacement would be rookie Justin Braun, though McLellan did say that Kent Huskins, who had been Niclas Wallins defense partner before getting hurt, is getting close.In other words, it looks like the Sharks defense, already on the thin side, is going to get thinner, relying on significant minutes from Braun and Jason Demers, who had an impressive game, so that Dan Boyle, who fumed outwardly about the Stoll hit, doesnt have to play 35 minutes, as he did Thursday night.Otherwise, it was a game of luck, both good and bad, and goalies, both very very good. Antti Niemi stole several goals from the light-scoring Kings, and lucked out on two open nets that Brad Richardson couldnt finish, and Quick was superb throughout, assuring the fans in both cities that this series will be, as McLellan said Thursday morning, a race to three.What's your take?EmailRay and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag. Follow Ray onTwitter @RattoCSN.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

Patriots win one for the ages, but where does it rank?

The price of watching Roger Goodell being booed back to the Bronze Age is a subtle but real one, and one that people will feel very dearly soon enough.

The last great cathartic Super Bowl is now done, with the New England Patriots winning the brilliant and decisive battle to be sports’ new evil empire. In doing so, it rendered Goodell a permanent and risible punch line in National Football League history, the mall cop who wanted the death penalty for littering, and in the words of the song “got what he wanted but he lost what he had.”

True, $40 million a year can make the dissolution of your public persona a reasonably decent tradeoff, but we lost the argument about who won his windmill tilt with the Patriots. It’s done, and he is now permanently and irrevocably a figure of ridicule.

But that’s not the only debating point America lost Sunday night, and while you wouldn’t think it given how much time we are willing to shouting at each other, quality arguments are not easily replaced.

We have almost surely lost the mindless debate about the best quarterback ever, because there is nothing anyone can bring up that the words “Tom Brady” cannot rebut except calling his own plays, and since that is no longer allowed in football, it is a silly asterisk to apply.

We have almost surely lost the equally silly shouter about the best coach ever. Bill Belichick is defiantly not fun, but he has built, improved and bronzed an organizational model that is slowly swallowing the rest of the sport. That and five trophies makes him the equal if not better of the short list of Paul Brown, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry.

Plus, Belichick locked up the most absurd response to a question in coaching history Monday when he said, “As great as today feels . . . we're five weeks behind the other teams for the 2017 season.” Even allowing for Gregg Popovich in-game interviews, the so-grim-he-could-make-a-robot-cry worship-the-process response has now become a cliché. If 2017 prep was so important, he should have skipped yesterday’s game, and he definitely should have chosen not to waste so much time on the trophy stand after the game when training camp drills needed to be scheduled.

Oh, and DeflateGate died. Dead. No zombie possibilities here.

We do have a meatheaded argument ahead of us about which championship in the last year is the best, which can be settled here.

1. Leicester City, because 5,000-1 is 5,000-1, and the whole world understands that. Plus, there was invaluable three-month buildup that engaged non-soccer fans.

2. Chicago Cubs, because 108 years is 108 years.

3. New England Patriots, because . . . well, I don’t have to explain it unless you have no useful memory span. “Down 25 In The Third Quarter” is the new “Down 3-1.”

4. Cleveland Cavaliers, because they slayed the first unbeatable Warrior team by coming from 3-1 down, and even as a silver medalist, it will always be an internet meme, which is what passes for memorable in our decrepit culture.

5. (tie) Villanova basketball and Clemson football in a tie, because they were essentially the same great game.

7. The Pittsburgh Penguins, because the Stanley Cup Final was devoid of drama or high moments, and only 14:53 of overtime. Feh.

But everything else is settled, and this Super Bowl will not be topped for a long time. Our current cycle of absurd championships is almost surely going to end soon, because “Down 3-1” has happened twice in eight months (three times, if you count Warriors over Thunder), and the bar has now been placed well beyond reasonable clearing.

Indeed, the only thing left is for a championship team to spontaneously combust on the award stand. But if they do so and ignite Roger Goodell along the way, that would be an ending America would cheerfully endorse.

But that also isn’t an argument any more, and yes, that includes Gary Bettman.