Ratto: Sharks simply outplayed, outworked


Ratto: Sharks simply outplayed, outworked

May 10, 2011


Ray RattoCSNCalifornia.com

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings are smelling like an overwhelming favorite now, and they should be. In fact, the only thing that the San Jose Sharks have any business clinging to right now is the hope that momentum in hockey is still a liar.Once again poised to finish a series that isnt finished with them, the Sharks put out a monumentally inert performance at Joe Louis Arena Thursday night, losing 7-1 despite the fact the Wings actually only scored two goals. Thats how bad Tuesday was, and how much closer to reality the difference between the two teams seems to be.San Jose had a lead for nearly seven minutes of this game, and if youre looking for it now, see miscarriage of justice. And if you think thats harsh, check with Todd McLellan, who is way more invested than any of you.

Ahead in the third period? the Sharks coach said when asked to refer to Logan Coutures goal at 3:54 and how it might have resembled the leads they blew in Game 5. We were very fortunate to still be in the game in the third period. We could have been down 4-0 or 5-0.Those were, in fact, the numbers Couture seized upon as well.We just werent very good at all, he said, minimizing the teams culpability while owning up to the general tenor of the room and its ambiance. It could really have been four or five. Nemo (goalie Antti Niemi) stood on his head for us, and we let him down.
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And in spectacular fashion at that. Outshot, outchanced, outworked, out-everythinged, the Sharks are now pushing a refrigerator up a greased hill away from becoming the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead and be eliminated from a playoff series they (a) thought theyd all but won, and (b) was their likely ticket to the Stanley Cup Final theyve never had.They were, in short, crushed, on a night when they needed to be anything but.
"You cant take much out of this game other than Nemo was great, defenseman Douglas Murray said. We put up an embarrassing effort. Its nothing to do with Xs and Os. Its about whatever it takes to get yourself ready. We werent skating, we werent making quick plays, we werent doing anything right. This was unacceptable. But we have to move away from it. Weve got an important game Thursday.
Niemi was brilliant as Couture and Murray said, turning away 42 of 44 shots, including 18 in the first period alone. But that was it for uplifting moments. The rest was one long, indistinct gray smear of mistakes, indolence and maybe even intimidation by a Detroit team that is turning back a little more body clock each night. They are now at May 2009, and with a full head of steam toward 2008 -- the last year they won the Cup.Again, the Sharks did have their lead, on a neat little goal by Couture not quite four minutes into the third period. He followed a Dany Heatley shot with a seemingly pedestrian shot at Jimmy Howard, San Joses 16th of the night, that trickled between the goalies leg pads and just barely over the line. It needed a long look from the gargoyles in Toronto who review all dubious goals, but they saw what the goal judge did not -- that the Sharks had defied the run of play and taken a 1-0 lead.
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And that was the end of San Joses highlight reel. Detroit regained the play and kept it through the auspices of third-line center Valtteri Filppula. He created one goal with a 100-foot rush and a pass to defenseman Niklas Kronwall at the top of the right circle that Henrik Zetterberg deflected home at 10:38.Then he scored the game-winner himself by standing in the way of a Couture clearing attempt, finding the magnificent Pavel Datsyuk who in turn found him at the side of an open net (Niemi failed Tuesday to consistently be in four places at once) for the winner at 12:32.That was a bad play by me, Couture said, owning up to the painfully evident. I was trying to put it up the boards and have Mitchie (Torrey Mitchell) skate onto it, and I put it right to (Filppula). That cant happen in the playoffs. I wish I could go back and do it again differently.So do the Sharks, but they did it the way theyve done it so many times before, which is how they got their reputation as The Little Engine That Could, But Doesnt. Of all their playoff failures, this will be the defining one, the jewel in the crown, the ace that wins all hands.Unless, through some defiance of the laws of physics that talk about bodies in motion and bodies at rest, they actually win Game 7 Thursday night at Le Pavillon du HP. That is still a possible outcome.But based on what we have seen, and what we saw in what looked like 5-D HiDef Tuesday, that is absolutely not the way to bet.Ray Ratto is a columnist with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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.

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

Raiders, 49ers can return to their normal madness after Fried Festivus 51

The Super Bowl is today, which means the best day of the year is fast approaching.

Namely, the day after the Super Bowl.

At that point, we as a nation can complete the inventory of gastric damage we did to ourselves on what shall be known to future generations as Fried Festivus.

At that point, the people who bombard us daily with news of the game – the least important part of the week-long trade show, as we have come to learn it – will all be on planes and too tired to re-explain what we already saw 37 times on game day.

At that point, nobody will care that Terrell Owens was apparently one of the first of the 15 Hall of Fame finalists to be rejected for induction because of crimes against the NFL state. The Hall of Fame is one of the sneaky ways in which the NFL never lets us escape its obnoxiously shouty profile, and the fact that Owens is right about the flawed process doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be just fine with the process when it allows him passage.

At that point, we’ll know whether Tom Brady is to be deemed a god, or merely maintain his demigod status. At least we’ll hear more about it, because it is easily the most tiresome debate in the football diaspora, engaged in by idiots with no better idea about how to kill time. A note: If you think Tom Brady is a greater quarterback because his team won a fifth ring, or a lesser one because he didn’t, your head is now officially empty enough to be reclassified a dance hall, and you are of no more value to normal society than a papier-mache goose.

And at that point, we can return to the two things we in these parts care to know – where the Raiders are going, and how the 49ers are going to present their new football brain trust.

We needn’t explain the Raiders again to you, first because you’ve heard it all if you’re paying any attention at all. Mark Davis has been trying to cobble deals at a frantic pace in hopes that one will stick, and his 31 fellow owners still have to decide how much longer they want to endure him, while faced with the painful fact that the East Bay is getting out of the exploitative license-to-be-stolen-from stadium business. They also get to know as they go to the meeting in Houston that will ostensibly decide Davis’ fate that they have ruined California as a market by their excessive greed-laced stupidity and deserve every lousy market the state can give them.

Which brings us to the 49ers, and the latest round of Judge Them By Their Press Conferences.

If there is anything worse than this team’s on-field profile, which is why Jed York hired Kyle Shanahan, it is the way it explains itself to the outside world, which is why Jed York hired John Lynch. Both Shanahan and Lynch will be paraded before a braying mobs, probably Tuesday, and York will be there as well for the cheesy photo array and a few unconvincing words of praise about each of them (as a note, Paraag Marathe will be present but only in hologrammatic form).

They will then promise – well, something or other – and Lynch will be hailed as the face of the glorious future because the man he replaced, Trent Baalke, had the public persona of a meth-tweaked hyena. Hard to find, and not worth it when you did.

Then we’ll all remember that the job Shanalynch (or Lynchahan, depending on what part of Ireland you’re from) are being asked to do is a three-year reclamation at the very least, and that the only useful question either can be asked is “Can you fix this before Jed gets embarrassed and angry and cans you both?”

And on Wednesday, there’s the start of pre-draft prep (in order words, The Eighty-Day Slave Market), and the hamster wheel to hell gears up again toward Super Bowl LII.

Only next year, the chances of relocation hysteria and a front office upheaval are that much less, and we haven’t sufficient distractions to make the year go faster.

But enjoy Fried Festivus. We can always look forward to that, even if we change the name back in December to the more traditional "Christmas."