Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks, Niemi uncomfortable once again

212011.jpg

Ratto: Sharks, Niemi uncomfortable once again

April 24, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEO
Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

First things first. Antti Niemi is still the Sharks goaltender for Mondays Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal against the Los Angeles Kings, no matter what the first nine minutes Saturday might have looked like.
In fact, its because of what the first nine minutes looked like that convinced head coach Todd McLellan that a change didnt need to be made there. He is more annoyed by and demanding more production from the six defensemen in front of Niemi, who gave pucks away and failed repeatedly to get rushes started by either giving up possession or cycling back into their own zone because they didnt want to fully engage the Kings forecheckers.He is our guy, McLellan said of Niemi, but this is also a matter of him not being the only one that didnt play to expectations. I dont think we did enough to help him.RELATED: McLellan says Niemi will start Game 6 for Sharks
Its not just him, defenseman Douglas Murray said in concurrence. Its us making mistakes. Its all of us, all six on the ice. (The Sharks being outscored 8-1 in the first period) is terrible. Its unforgivable. But its real easy to talk about, but much harder to get the job done.
In any event, even if Niemi is cured of his yips and the defensemen, starting and emphasizing Dan Boyle, who has struggled most in this series, the Sharks have still wasted a lot of time that could have been put to much better use both preparing for Detroit and not having to live with another round of Why have you no killer instinct?

In losing two games they really had no good reason to, the Sharks have made an easy job (beating a seven-seed without its best scorer) harder, and a hard job (getting through the next two rounds) even harder than that.And that, boys, girls and undecideds, is why they have infuriated you yet again by dragging themselves to a sixth game in this Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Los Angeles Kings. They have now managed to screw up badly, twice, in situations that demanded that they choose the easiest path.They lost Game 2 decisively when the Kings had neither Anze Kopitar or Jarret Stoll, and they lost convincingly and drably. Winning that game would have eliminated the need to win Game 5, again at home, with the Kings reeling and primed to fail. And while all that is going on, the Detroit Red Wings are resting at home, comfortably and happily, with plenty of time to heal wounds and stoke the anger that has resounded within them since losing to the Sharks in the second round last year.The Sharks, in short, needed to make this series an easy and decisive one if they were to take themselves as serious Stanley Cup contenders, and failed.Of course, they could win Monday and decide that maybe they still are. Thats just not the way to bet any more.Right now, the Wings are at full strength and with a full tank, waiting with joy while the Sharks expend as much energy as possible vanquishing an outmanned seven-seed. And the first rule of playoff hockey is, If you want to go deep, dont spend so much time thrashing about in the shallow end.Game 5 looks better for the Sharks than it actually was. They got 52 shots, 12 or so of which were great scoring chances, that Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and his defensemen handled almost impeccably.RATTO: Quick saves Kings, puts pressure on Sharks
But the fact is the Sharks eliminated themselves early with poor goaltending from Niemi and shoddy defensive work in front of him, and the Kings spent the rest of the night ceding ice and puck possession for the surety of guarding Quick from another meltdown a la Game 3. Having taken a 3-0 lead in the first minutes, they rope-a-doped the rest of the way because they had the wherewithal to do it. Under normal circumstances in which the Kings would actually have to engage the offensive process, the Sharks wouldnt have had the puck long enough to get 52 shots.Nevertheless, McLellan had less trouble with his forward play than the back seven (including Niemi). Not enough to change Niemi or the other six, but enough to make it an uncomfortable few days for them. And with the Sharks, it's always about not being comfortable.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
 
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
 
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
 
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
 
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
 
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
 
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
 
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
 
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

the-yorks.jpg
AP

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

There is no inherent reason why you should care about Miami FC or Kingston Stockade FC, two lower level professional soccer leagues in the lower right quadrant of the nation.

But when they joined together to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international governing body for any sport not run by Americans for Americans, to demand that all American teams submit to the concept of promotion and relegation, from MLS to, presumably, your kid’s under-8 team, they became interesting.

And the best part about soccer, except for Neymar being worth twice as much as all other humans in the history of the sport, is promotion and relegation.

In fact, it would be a great idea in all sports – although the idea of the Giants and A’s in the Pacific Coast League might scare the bejeezus out of Larry Baer and John Fisher.

Now we are not optimistic that the CAS will see this Kingston and Miami’s way. Americans like their sports top-heavy, where only a few megaclubs get most of the money and attention while the rest sort of muddle along, safe but unremarkable. And to be frank, promotion and relegation is most a fun media construct for making fun of bad teams – say, like the A’s and Giants.

But we can agree, I think, that having Jed York pay Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to keep his football team out of the Canadian Football League, or better still, the Mountain West Conference, would add to healthy dose of spice to what promises otherwise to be a pretty humdrum year.

And promotion/relegation would certainly reduce all that troublesome tanking in the NBA people endlessly whinge about.

So here’s to Kingston Stockade and Miami FC. Your cause is just. Persevere. After all, in this rancid period for American sporting culture, someone's got to stand for the quixotic yet indisputably correct thing.

And when it fails, and it probably will, just know you sleep with the angels -- if that’s what passes for fun at your house.