Ratto: Sharks win it their way, the hard way


Ratto: Sharks win it their way, the hard way

Ray Ratto

LOS ANGELES -- In the frantic moments between joy and composure, Todd McLellan said it best, and fastest.

Its the Sharks, he said with a rueful laugh. Thats what we do.

That is scare themselves and everyone around them half-dead, and then sometimes to go all the way. Monday they stopped short.
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Joe Thorntons quick spin-and-shoot 2:22 into overtime propelled the Fins to a 4-3 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings, and a second-round date with one of their two most prominent nemeses, either Detroit or Chicago.

In fact, it was a big night for lot of Sharks who had been taking a bit of a lashing this postseason.
There was Thornton, who scored the game-winner by getting in front of defenseman Willie Mitchell and one-timed a shot off a clot in front of the net into a wide open net.

There was Dany Heatley, who had given the Sharks a 3-2 lead with a nasty one-timer off what he called a jump ball of a pass from Ryane Clowe at 8:48.

RATTO: Game 6 notebook

And there was the penalty kill, one of San Joses weakest links, rising to its best work in timing out a five-minute charging penalty to Jamie McGinn at 16:37 for running Brad Richardson that seemed to have doomed the Sharks to a seventh game and all the windpipe problems those brings.

The Kings had scored two of their first three goals on power plays, and McGinns mistake looked like the killer, though McLellan was conciliatory for the moment.

He did what we asked him to do, we wanted him to be aggressive, he said of McGinn. We obviously didnt want the penalty there, but we wanted him to be aggressive.

And they survived that aggression, as badly timed and egregious as it was. Next stop, the second round, where the battle gets exponentially harder.

The first period showed that the Sharks can be re-trained. They were smarter in their own end, quicker out of their own end, better at getting into the Kings passing lanes, used all four lines more than they had in the first five games, and put consistent pressure on the Los Angeles defense.

And . . . they got no goals. Again.

This time, they put 16 shots on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, making it 85 in the six first periods so far, with only a Dany Heatley score in Game 1 to show for all that hyperactivity. In fact, when you throw in blocked shots and missed shots, they threw 30 in Quicks direction, a sign of puck ownership that they did far well efficaciously in game 4.

But in terms of following instructions and resembling the team that raced through the second half of the regular season, they did fine. There is, after all, no other way for them to advance, and one got the feeling that the only way they could fail was to deviate from their first period performance.

Joe Pavelskis line was again the most active, and Pavelski the most singularly active, getting off five shots, most of them from close enough and with sufficient consequence to pass as good chances.

The Kings, on the other hand, got only one shot from its pest line of Brad Richardson, Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, as the Sharks did a much more thorough job of playing in all three zones.

It was also a more physical game than any of the others, with more purposeful hits in better context to the game than in any of the first five. Hits are a dodgy stat given that they awarded by home team stat crews, but the two teams combined for 42 (LA won, 26-16, in case you care), and it only stood to get crankier as the night went on.

The second period was closer, but it was also more wide open, resulting in goals from Kyle Wellwood and Jason Demers from San Jose and Justin Williams for L.A.

Wellwoods goal came after Joe Thornton retrieved his backhand and returned it to him for an open 18-footer from just inside the low hash at 2:58 that beat the de-sticked Jonathan Quick. Thornton, though, returned the work when he was flagged for a high-sticking double-minor at 11:04, and the Kings eventually turned it into the game-squarer. Williams followed a long rebound of a Jack Johnson drive and found the unguarded half of Antti Niemis net at 13:27.

The Kings were gathering momentum when Demers one-timed a pass from the right side by Pavelski and beat Quick at 16:52, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead they knew how to hold in the regular season (they were 19-1-2 in games allowing two or fewer goals since January 15). But those Sharks seem like a phenomenon of a thousand years ago; these seem destined to make you chew your nails to the second knuckle.

Worse for them, the Kings were finally hitting their stride after 30 minutes of being owned by the visitors. The Sharks would need a third goal to feel any comfort, and comfort is what they do worst of all.

Of course, they didnt get that before the Kings got their second, 18 seconds into the third period. Douglas Murrays clearing pass was cut off by Ryan Smyth, who then beelined it toward the net just ahead of Boyle, who was trying to collect Murrays clear, in time to follow Jarret Stolls right-angled shot to tie the game.

Dany Heatley then won the game at 8:48 with a nostalgically wicked snap shot off a wobbly Ryane Clowe pass that Brad Richardson couldnt clear, and Trevor Lewis won it back at 11:39 in the dying moments of a Jason Demers interference penalty, which was the second poorest decision of the period by a Shark.

The worst came at 16:37, when Jamie McGinn ran Richardson into the boards with a head shot in the Sharks offensive zone and got hit with a major and a game misconduct, giving the Kings a five-minute penalty and left the Sharks one man shorthanded thereafter. Even for those partisans who thought the punishment was excessive, the intent was clear, the distance from thought to execution was considerable, and the decision was unfathomably poor.

The Sharks killed off the first 3:23 of the penalty despite a couple of close calls, then went off for the start of overtime knowing that if they won this game, they would feel far more lucky than good.

Then again, Its the Sharks. Sounds almost like a sitcom, doesnt it?

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.