Ratto: Quick saves Kings, puts pressure on Sharks


Ratto: Quick saves Kings, puts pressure on Sharks

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

SAN JOSE -- Todd McLellan was worried that the Sharks would be too comfortable to close out the Los Angeles Kings. Well, they werent too comfortable Saturday night. They never got the chance.

With a full week to contemplate their future in the second round, the Sharks couldnt dispose of the first, losing on a count-out, 3-1, to the Kings at Le Pavilion de HP to force a sixth game Monday night at Le Centre De Agrafes in Los Angeles.
RECAP: Back to L.A. -- Kings top Sharks to extend series
You know, the home of the Flameout On Figueroa. The last place the Kings took a big early lead.Only most big leads do stand up, and in this case, Jonathan Quick propped it up with a 51-save performance that included a good dozen excellent scoring chances, according to head coach Terry Murray. He was very good tonight. Now we have to go back and win one for him.McLellan, on the other hand, has a fistful of thorns of a goalie problem, after Antti Niemi and poor defense work in front of him combined to allow three goals in four shots in the first 8:42, thus ending the game even before it had a chance to clear its throat.

The first one (by Wayne Simmonds) comes off a hell of a deflection, McLellan said, reviewing the nails in his teams crest. The second one (by Kyle Clifford), he makes a great save off a 2-on-1 that shouldnt exist (turnover by Dan Boyle), and the third one (by Dustin Penner), hes a little deep in his net, and he knows that.But then he added a subtler but more damaging assessment, one that cant be fixed by exchanging a Finn (Antero Niittymaki) for a Finn (Niemi).We have six (defensemen) dressed who are better than they showed tonight, he said. I probably dont have to tell them, but I will remind them of that.Indeed, the Sharks defense has been spotty in all areas, starting with Dan Boyle and running through the group, and Saturday was a particularly painful effort, even though the Sharks ended with 52 shots to only 22 for the Kings.RELATED: NHL playoff scoreboard
This was indeed Quicks game to savor. His 51 saves included both stand-on-his-head beauties and more fundamental skills, both with rebound control and crease command throughout the evening, turning a game the Sharks lost early into one they might never have won under any circumstances.It was especially gratifying for him given that he had allowed 12 goals in the previous five periods.I feel if you come in angry, its going to take away from your game, he said of his mindset in turning hay into gold. You just forget about it, you move on, it doesnt matter how many goals they score in one game. The next game is a clean slate and you start over. Not too many emotions going in. Youre just trying to be even-keel and make the saves to help your team win.He also pointed out that the Sharks threw a lot more shots than quality shots at him.A lot of the shots were from the perimeter, he said. We limited their Grade A chances from last time and I also felt I played a bit better than last time out. Its a great win and were looking forward to Game 6.The Sharks looked best in the first period . . . well, once you forget that the first minutes gave them a splenectomy. But all three periods had that same sense lots of busy work, not so much effective work. And the Kings played the tight, sensible, defensive game they are noted for and that the Sharks have shown little of in this series. Their goaltending is a huge problem (early betting is for Niittymaki in Game 6), and the puck management in their zone has been, if anything, worse. It put them in a hole that their profligate shooting could not overcome, and Quick was everything a goaltender must be in the playoffs.You get to this point, and your goaltender is going to have to win you a game, Murray said. Its been going on for 50 years.But not here, not for the last decade at least. The Sharks havent stolen a series with their goaltending ever, and when the offense cant find a goal and the defense cant handle the puck well enough to prevent them, that becomes a serious issue.In the end, the Sharks got a lot of shots, did little with them, and ran into a goalie at the top of his powers while their own goalie seems to have lost most of his. Game 6 is Monday, and the breathing is getting a little harder. This series is going to take a lot more out of the Sharks than theyd hoped, and it might still take them out entirely. As they say, nothing is safe until its home and dry.

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.