Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks lose focus, composure, gag Gm. 5

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Ratto: Sharks lose focus, composure, gag Gm. 5

May 8, 2011

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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

The Sharks struggled with first periods and did pretty well this spring. They put up a good one Sunday, and theyre going back to Detroit anyway.

The reason: A brutal last 23 minutes, in which they blew two two-goal leads, were caught and eventually passed by the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3.

This sets up Game 6 in Detroit Tuesday night, and the Sharks are now starting to feel the hot breath of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers on their necks -- the Flyers being the team that came back from 3-0 down a year and eventually reached the Stanley Cup finals.

These Sharks are nowhere near there yet, and having given Detroit new life twice now, are no longer in a position to take advancement from this round for granted. Nor to feel all that joyous if they do.

RELATED: Game 5 notes: Bad wrist can't slow Datsyuk

Goals by Jonathan Ericsson, Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom in a 10-minute period midway through the third period were the weapons by which the Wings came back from the seemingly dead, but the real culprit was San Jose itself, failing yet again to play a full game and being well and properly punished for it.

I thought we showed poise and composure, head coach Todd McLellan said, clearly assuming that the divergent views of others would be sufficiently damning to get the true point across. We made some mistakes, got caught out there a little too long on that last goal, but I think the players sent the message to each other that if we play like that Tuesday, well have a good chance to win.

We beg to differ.

What Game 4 showed and what Game 5 stamped in iron was that San Jose has not learned how to start and finish the same way, and that when confronted by good fortune or momentum they are as likely to return it like it was corked wine, if not throw it up entirely.

And because there is now Game 6 awaiting them, there is nobody who can feel confident in the prospect of there not being a Game 7.

San Jose controlled most of the play most of the time, but never enough to enjoy the two two-goal leads they had built through Joe Pavelski at 15:32 of the second or Logan Couture 54 seconds into the third.

First, defenseman Niklas Kronwall beat Antti Niemi with a wrister from a right-side angle to put Detroit within a goal at 2-1 -- 53 seconds after the Pavelski goal. Then Ericsson, another non-offensive force, scored from up close 2:49 after Coutures score, putting a seemingly safe game back in doubt.

REISS: Roenick's shot at Marleau over the line

Then it all collapsed, first behind a Cleary goal scored because he wrapped the puck around the right side of the goal and jammed in a seemingly sealed rebound at 5:29 to tie the game, and then Pavel Datsyuk picked Patrick Marleau along the left wall en route to a slapshot from the high slot by Nicklas Lidstrom that Holmstrom deflected home at13:52.

Three goals in 10 minutes, on the road, with Datsyuk playing with one hand because of a wrist injury and being unable to take any draws, and wing Johan Franzen sitting for the last 14 minutes because of a bad ankle. Thats after scoring three goals in 11 minutes to start Game 4, with elimination staring the Wings in the face.

That shows how hard the Red Wings are to kill, and how hard it is for the Sharks to be that instrument. Five one-goal games tell a story. Not playing a full 60 minutes tells a different one. The one the Sharks need to heed is the second of the two.

Whether they can do that is always a matter of conjecture with this team. Los Angeles should have been an easier dispatch than it was, and a 3-0 lead even over a team like Detroit should also be so.

Instead, they have drawn out this series by failing to start fast enough in one game, close well enough in the other, and to miss another four power plays to drop to a preposterous 2 for 26 at home in that category on the postseason.

Game 6 will be on the road, if that helps at all. And barring a return to the form that got the Sharks here to begin with, dont bet there wont be a Game 7, either. In a very very tense building.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together

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AP

National SOB League can never forget the noble man who brought them together

So after one day, the NSOBL (the National Son-Of-A-Bitch League, as if you couldn’t guess) has survived the contemptible brain-burps of the Panderer-In-Chief. Now we’ll see if the players’ fury has true staying power.
 
And by staying power, we don’t mean whether they will continue to defy the call of the National Anthem (an easy enough task), but whether they view their newfound solidarity as something that needs to be nurtured to truly endure.
 
After all, it’s easy to be galvanized by the noisy neighbor who spends his day on the porch shouting irrational obscenities at the neighbors. But Donald Trump isn’t the issue; he never was. All he did was put a face to the idiocies that prevent us from being the country we should be.
 
But this started a year ago with a single knee, a single person, and a broader cause than a President who needs to pick fights the way a vampire needs naked necks. Colin Kaepernick, whose career as a football player is essentially over because he caused the NFL a headache by honoring his conscience, took his knee to protest police excesses, and didn’t need to be called a son of a bitch to do so. He was later, of course, part of the medley of all the other insults that followed, but he didn’t kneel because he was insulted. He knelt because other were, and worse.
 
But the beauty of these days is that we take any idea or action and immediately change its meaning to fit our own prejudices. Kaepernick’s message was too nuanced for a lot of people’s facilities because they value symbols more than people, but nobody doesn’t understand being called a son of a bitch by a boss you hate.
 
So the new NSOBL is just starting to coalesce. There will not be a shortage of reasons for players to find their voice and conscience, and to break the bonds that required them to ask permission before speaking or thinking. If they are as they purport to be, they will remember that change happens with a single son of a bitch.

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

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AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.