Ratto: Sharks so razor-sharp, even McLellan can't critique


Ratto: Sharks so razor-sharp, even McLellan can't critique

SAN JOSE -- Todd McLellan, ever mindful of what can go wrong, had a hard time figuring out what actually did Sunday.

We were happy with how we played in Game 1, the Sharks head coach said after watching his team win Game 2, 2-1 over the Detroit Red Wings, but we played with better intensity, I thought, and we had a little more battle-a-bility, if thats what you want to call it. And this was a harder game to play.

In what way, you might ask, given that the Sharks essentially defined and controlled if not outright dominated the last 50 minutes?

Detroit made it harder, he said, ever mindful not to stir the distressed giant any further. They had more sustained time in our end and against the boards. We had to do a lot more tonight with the penalty kill in six of the first 10 minutes. But yes, in some ways this was our best game (of the postseason).

And yet Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.

Yes, this is still a drumhead-tight series, even though San Jose has now won successive 2-1 games and goes to Detroit having won six of the last seven playoff games and 10 of the last 12 anything games.

RELATED: Sharks Game 2 video

But yes, this was also San Joses best performance yet. After spending much of the first 10 minutes down a man, including a four-minute high-sticking call on Benn Ferriero against Justin Abdelkader, the Sharks slowly but surely grabbed the game and choke-slammed it into submission -- or as close to submission as the Red Wings will allow.

Yeah, thats fair, Joe Thornton said. Our second period was pretty good, we just got after it and stayed after it, and spent a lot of time in their end. Thats what we all talked about before the team that spends more time in the other guys end is going to win the game.

And yet Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.

The Sharks got goals from the redoubtable offensive machines Ian White and Niclas (The Bleeding Beard) Wallin, and superb performances from the other four defenders, most notably Dan Boyle.

He was very good, McLellan said, and you notice that when hes really good, so is 3 (Douglas Murray).

But San Jose also got standout work from a veritable army of backchecking forwards as well, from the defensively attentive, like Thornton, Scott Nichol and Ryane Clowe, to the offensively prejudiced, like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

As a result, the Sharks lost the first period but handled the second and third, and now head to Detroit as they did a year ago, two games to the good and with visions of a conference final in their heads yet again.

But killing a team is apparently harder than it used to be. Taking only non-first-round series into account, four of the last 13 teams to win the first two games at home eventually lost the series, starting with the 06 Sharks in the now famous Edmonton Fiasco.

We know how good they are, White said, and we know theyre only going to be better in their building, so we cant let up. In fact, we have to be better.

It is hard to know if the Sharks can be better than this; if they can, it is probably in the needless penalty area. Their often spotty penalty kill was 5-for-6, and they also squeezed out another power play goal (the White slapshot, from a nifty dumpoff by Heatley).

But Sharks aficionados know that San Jose is always one complacent thought from being back on their heels. Their lack of ability to put the boot in when the for is prone is as much a part of the franchise as the papier mache shark head in the ceiling.

Thus, Wednesdays third game will require at least as much attention to the details as the first two. It will require more Antti Niemi, and Boyle and White and Wallin and Thornton and Heatley and all the other gents if they are to reach their third conference final in seven years, and with a decent amount of rest.

And don't forget, Detroits Nicklas Lidstrom hit the post with 2:42 to play, otherwise all that Sharks advantage talk would be for naught.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention


Frank Deford's longform storytelling made him worthy of our attention

Frank Deford’s death over the weekend did not mark the end of longform sportswriting as we knew it; he had long ago become part of the electronic commentariat that has reduced longform’s place in the public’s attention span.

But there is still longform writing and storytelling to be found in many places, and it is still worthwhile. It has more production value, as the TV folks like to blather, and the words have to fight for their place between the cracks left by the pictures and the mutated graphics, but longform lives, and it should, lest we all agree as one people to further desiccate that attention span like a grapefruit left in the sun.

Deford’s death, though, reminds of when longform was the zenith of the storytelling art. It could, and still can, give you access and depth and breadth that a TV crew simply could not, and cannot. Even extended TV features are by their very nature so contrived by all the equipment that nothing is natural, nothing is a surprise, and the act of writing is almost an afterthought.

Deford knew this. He more than merely dabbled in TV himself, playing the wizened old raconteur who was as much character in his pieces as storyteller. He was also a star and a starmaker with The National, a daily sports network in newspaper form that was long on talent and ideas but short on delivery and distribution. It lasted 17 months, until mid-1991, but it led to grander attempts decades later, and could if you squint your eyes hard enough be the natural parent of Grantland and The Ringer and Vice and SB Nation and dozens of others – all bigger ideas, positioned in the post-typing world. Some lasted, more didn’t, but capitalism is like that – making fuel to keep the fires burning and the engines churning.

Deford could have thrived in such a world, to be sure. He was not, in the hideous phrase, “a man of his time.” Indeed, he was a crossover figure years ago in ways that other longform writers attempt to resist even now. They want to be Deford at the height of his powers at a time when the instruments for their gift are either dying or veering away from anything that hits the 600-word mark.

But his passing did not kill the art of clever writing and incisive storytelling. There are far too many people who can do that still, even if the market for their gifts is neither as pronounced nor as eager for the product as it once was. It did remind us not only that he was a giant, but that there are still giants among us should we deign to take the time to seek them.

Thus, Deford’s death marked his passing but not the thing that made him worthy of our attention. Storytelling, longform and otherwise, remains the heart of why this is still worthwhile to a culture, and when the generation his work spawned starts to die off, I suspect we’ll still be saying the same thing then. Notebooks are smartphones, photographs are streams, but the human eye and ear and hand still remain pre-eminent.

That is, until the robots take over, at which point reading won’t be worth it.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.