Ratto: Sharks win Game 3 on McLellan's script


Ratto: Sharks win Game 3 on McLellan's script

Ray Ratto

SAN JOSE -- It seems so easy for the Sharks to play with the Vancouver Canucks -- once you see them actually do it.

They scored early and often. They played to their strengths. They made their power plays count and held serve on just enough big penalty kills. They got another big night, two goals worth, out of Spleenless Patty Marleau. They got a game-winner from Dan Boyle on a third period 5-on-3 advantage. They blocked 26 shots including four in an extended 5-on-3 penalty kill. They got more superb goaltending from Antti Niemi, who is so over his stuttering start against Los Angeles.

And even at that, they escaped on the handle end of a 4-3 close shave in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final because . . . well, because thats just the way theyre doing this job. As close to the third rail as a fellow can get without losing body hair.

And when you throw in the numerous wild cards for Game 4, you lose all sense of where this series is going to go, or how its going to get there.

But well get to that in a minute. Right now, the Sharks are basking in the knowledge that once again, as darkness looms over their futures, they can rise and play big games their way.

Most of it is will, head coach Todd McLellan said when asked to explain the difference in the Sharks pace and discipline from Game 2 to Game 3. Some nights you feel better. Some nights you just have it. Some nights the other team doesn't feel as good. There are physical reasons for it.

There is some tactics to it, but it didn't change much from Game 1 and 2 really. The players will tell you that. It's about executing. When you execute and make plays, you're faster. When you bobble it, you're batting it around, it's in your feet, you're not moving, you're slower. It's as simple as that.

That doesnt explain Marleau or Joe Thornton, who have been on their games since Game 7 of the Detroit series (for Marleau) and the entire postseason (for Thornton). Marleau displayed more energy in Game 3 than he did in the prior three, when he started his five-goals-in-four-games run, and Thornton was at his prohibitive best in helping corral the previous rampant Sedin-Sedin-Burrows line.

We just had our legs, Thornton said. (We) put pucks in where we could get them back, we drew some penalties. When we got our power play, we executed well. But, yeah, just being hard on pucks, retrieving pucks hard. We did that early.

Early enough to the tune of a 3-0 lead after 17 minutes and change, the two Marleau goals and a Ryane Clowe rebound of a Boyle drive.

But the defining moment might have been when the Sharks killed a 5-on-3 disadvantage caused by a burst of Andrew Desjardins misbehaviors. Niemi saved five shots, and Douglas Murray, Joe Pavelski and Ian White combined to block four more to keep the Canucks from making the run that they made in the third period because of a major and game misconduct dealt out to Jamie McGinn for running Aaron Rome from behind.

On a night of misdemeanors and felonies (five of the seven goals came on power plays, a fair number since there were 17 of them), special teams were clearly dominant factors.

But so, too, was San Joses recommitment to detail work, to dealing with Vancouver in groups of five rather than going on little one-on-one raids that distorted their defensive shape and rendered their forechecking attempts inert.

It was, in short, a fine comeback performance that bodes well for . . . well, wait a minute there. We did speak of wild cards here, to wit:

Vancouver may be without its third defense pair, Christian Ehrhoff and Rome, due to injuries caused by Sharks hits. Ehrhoff went off with 5:40 left in the second due to a hit by McGinn, one of the members of McLellans Worcester Surprise, the new fourth line that replaced Ben Eager, Scott Nichol and Benn Ferriero. McGinn also laid out Rome, boarding him with 8:38 and getting a major and an ejection.

McGinn may be suspended for the hit, which resulted in the two third period Vancouver goals, by Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa.

Logan Couture was laid out in a collision with Clowe 1:59 into the second period, and came back to the bench momentarily before being sent back to the dressing room. McLellan said Couture would play Game 4, but he also gave every indication that Eager would play Game 3, so believe him at your peril.

In short, the Sharks did what they had to do, long enough, to save themselves the danger of facing doom four times in succession. And now, barring the rapture, they have earned not only the right to be confident about Game 4 Sunday, but Game 5 in Vancouver as well.

But dont be surprised if they cut the meat a little fine again. It is what they do. It is the way they do it.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

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."