Sharks may be hot, but hockey spits on momentum

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Sharks may be hot, but hockey spits on momentum

The first few days of the Stanley Cup Playoffs are spent going through the handy-dandy record book looking for historical hints to lead one through the early traps.

It is a useless exercise, though. There is nothing more immediate and less history-based than the Stanley Cup. Even regular season form is often a lie, even if recent looks through the playoff brackets show us that seven-seeds, just to pick something the Sharks are, go down almost three-quarters of the time.

But there is one thing that is actually a real nag for San Jose the penalty kill. No team has been this bad killing shorthanded situations and made the playoffs in 15 years; in 1997, both the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens made the playoffs despite being the worst penalty killers in the league. Before that, the 94 Sharks managed a similar feat.

Thus, while Todd McLellan has already trained the boys to play the underdog card as though they had a deck full of them, the truth is that this is the biggest reason they are underdogs. They stink when the other team has more players.

And with St. Louis having the best home record in the league, and with officials having a hard time resisting the charms of the home team as a general rule, the Sharks will be underdogs until they can reconcile these two facts:

1. They play shorthanded fewer than any other team.

2. They give up the 12th most goals when shorthanded.

Thats fairly awful, and on details like this against a highly disciplined and organized team like St. Louis, the Sharks will either have to cure themselves of something that has afflicted them all year long, or take the pipe quickly and quietly.

San Jose won seven of its last nine games to save itself from golf, and St. Louis lost nine of its final 13 to blow the Presidents Trophy, so momentum presumably is with the Sharks.

But no sport spits on momentum quite like hockey. Every game is different, and wildly so; perhaps you should break down the Sharks-Kings series from last spring for verification of this truth.

This series, rather, will break down on the details, because St. Louis under Ken Hitchcock is all about details and his team is more devoted to them than anyone else in the West. Vancouver wins with speed and improvisation. Phoenix wins with a relentless grinding noise. Nashville wins with the best goalie (Pekka Rinne) and the two best defensemen (Shea Weber and Ryan Suter). Detroit wins on muscle memory.

But San Jose wins by the skin of its incisors, mastering the art of timely inconsistency and the adrenaline of desperation. The Sharks have a power play worthy of the name, a strong top six and a slowly improving third and fourth lines.

But they have done this without any form or sense to their season. Their best advertisement is that they failed to fail, and that they got it right enough often enough at the last possible minute.

And winning teams spot the weakness for which losing teams cannot compensate.

Are the Sharks doomed? No. Those 97 Rangers beat Florida (New York was a five-seed, in case youre asking) and New Jersey (the one-seed) before going down to Philadelphia. And those 94 Sharks popped Detroit as an eight-seed before being schooled by Toronto (when Toronto didnt stink).

But the betting man doesnt like these odds. The betting man may worry that St. Louis hasnt got enough experience on this stage, but he doesnt like the Sharks for more tangible reasons. The betting man would pass on this series entirely.

You, the non-betting fan, cant pass, though. Youre in, come hell or 5-on-3s. Just dont be surprised when the reward for finishing seventh is the traditional one a keychain and a hearty Thanks for playing our game.

Here's to hoping Marshawn Lynch upstages the NFL Draft

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AP

Here's to hoping Marshawn Lynch upstages the NFL Draft

Marshawn Lynch is going to upstage the NFL Draft for a few moments by announcing his signing with the Oakland Raiders Thursday.

The problem with this is obvious. He can’t upstage it all day long.

The NFL Draft is one of those events that demeans all who come in contact with it, because it basically extols the three virtues the owners find most inspiring – dishonesty, bullying and treachery. Between everyone lying about everything they do, making players submit to the most revolting reputational indignities, and just good old-fashioned broken promises like, “If you’re there at 119, we’re taking you, oh wait, we suddenly hate you and your skill set,” the draft is largely a festival of misery.

Not universally, mind you. Some players love it, especially the ones who hit the lottery, get picked higher than they thought they would and go to the perfect team for their talents and temperaments. That’s not the usual road, but there you go.

But mostly, nah. And we’re not even getting into the cavalcade of media self-anointeds who think they know what they’re talking about but only serve to remind us that not everybody is a fun companion in a bar.

Now the disclaimer: If you like the NFL Draft, fine. Wallow in every minute of it with our blessing. It'll keep you from all level of other mischief, and it is relatively harmless fun if you can deal with the aesthetic unpleasantries to which we just referred. Just understand that you are spending 356 minutes of party prep for three days of partying and six days of cleanup. It's a hamster wheel of fun, but it is a hamster wheel.

But then there's Marshawn Lynch, who overcame being one of those draft casualties (because Buffalo didn’t work for him, and he didn’t work all that well for Buffalo, either), is coming out of retirement to be traded and then rendered a Raider in the time still allotted for them to reside in Oakland. As a distraction, this will play well enough. It sure beats DeMarcus Cousins being traded by Sacramento during the NBA All-Star Game.

I suppose this is a heart-rending tale of one man’s loyalty to his city (the right place at the right price), although there is the naggingly worrisome component that going back to football won’t be good for his overall health. It is the risk he runs, to be sure, and one can only assume that he has made a clearheaded choice, but this is not a spot that treats its recidivists well.

That’s recidivists, as in “folks who walked away happily, then found out they needed it too much for their own good.”

Frankly, there is no good reason not to want this to turn out well for Lynch (the Raiders can take of themselves with or without him, and within two years will do exactly that), but it is a case of bucking some daunting odds in what is too often a zero-sum game. That’s a level of risk that should make anyone queasy.

But it is what Marshawn Lynch wants, risks and all, and as a grown adult he should get the opportunity few are afforded – to chase and catch his dream until it stops being a dream and becomes a chore.

If it works out for the Raiders as well, fine. Lynch isn’t the one who will put them over the top in a conference dominated by three teams – New England, the Patriots and Bill Belichick – but if he finds the athletic closure he seeks, it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.

Especially if it even momentarily minimizes the rest of the hot rhetorical/gasbaggy mess that is Draft Night. If nothing else, here’s hoping Marshawn Lynch is the star of the night. That’s not the way to bet, of course, but a person can hope.

Source: Marshawn Lynch set to join Raiders, pending physical

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AP

Source: Marshawn Lynch set to join Raiders, pending physical

Running back is no longer a pressing Raiders need. They eliminated it just before this NFL draft by acquiring a good one for the team, a great one for the East Bay Raiders fan base.

Marshawn Lynch is going to wear Silver and Black.

The powerful running back and proud Oakland native has agreed to terms on a contract with the Raiders, a league source with knowledge of the situation confirmed on Wednesday morning.

The Raiders have also acquired his rights from Seattle in trade.

The deal and the trade is contingent on a physical. Lynch is expected at Raiders complex Wednesday to complete that formality and sign a contract to make everything official.

The news was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo before dawn Wednesday morning.

NFL Network reports Lynch agreed to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million. He's set to make a $3 million base salary in 2017. He can earn another another $2 million coming if he reaches 1,000 yards. 

The Seahawks and Raiders will swap 2018 draft picks to complete the trade. According to USA Today, Seattle receives Oakland's fifth-round pick next year in exchange for Lynch and their sixth round pick next year.

The Oakland Tech High grad and Cal alum retired from NFL football after the 2015 season, but wanted to return after a year away from the game. The 31-year old only wanted to return for his hometown team, and got his wish after prolonged contract talks.

A union is now a completed physical away from becoming complete. 

Raiders players were overjoyed at the news before that, including quarterback Derek Carr.

Former Seahawks teammate Bruce Irvin, who has been championing the Lynch-to-Oakland cause for weeks now, was thrilled to see Lynch join the squad.

Lynch is not expected to be a Las Vegas Raider. His contract runs through the 2018 season. The Raiders plan to play in the Bay Area until their new Las Vegas stadium is complete in 2020. They have lease options to play at Oakland Colsieum through the 2018 season.