Game 5 notes: Sharks face offseason issues


Game 5 notes: Sharks face offseason issues

May 24,2011


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Ryane Clowe probably said it best on Monday evening.

Standing with a couple reporters inside a hotel ballroom with a panorama of the Vancouver seaport and the mountainous expanse of British Columbia in the background, Clowe nodded his head.

Theres a lot of pressure on us already because were going to be question marks after the season, he said.

The questions begin this morning and likely will continue in the weeks ahead as Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan attempt to unravel another postseason failure.

RATTO: Sharks' season ends nobly, but harshly

Vancouver advanced to its first Stanley Cup Final since 1994 on Tuesday night, eliminating the Sharks in Game 5 with a 3-2 double-overtime victory that clinched the Western Conference championship.

Vancouvers Kevin Bieksa won it with an unusual shot from the blue line.

Six times now since 2004, the Sharks have lost to the eventual conference champs.

Ron Wilson failed then. McLellan has failed two years in succession after being swept out by eventual Cup champion Chicago last May.

We still got a lot of years, team captain Joe Thornton said. Our core group still has three years left. Well come back and be more hungry next year To get here is an accomplishment, but next year, we have to beat it.

Make no mistake. McLellans group seemed good enough to win the West, but self-destructed during several games against Vancouver.

When the series began, the tortured souls of Silicon Valley recognized one of these franchises would finally unburden itself of carrying around the label as chronic losers when May gave way to June in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

For the Sharks, its like a harpoon weighing them down at the dorsal fin.

Theyll carry that underachieving label one more season.

Doug Wilson has seven unrestricted free agents -- and three restricted -- to contend with, though the core of the club remains intact.

We have some very talented players that are under contract, McLellan said. We have a real strong core. We've learned a lot of lessons along the way. We've grown as a team. In my opinion, there's absolutely no reason why we can't be an elite team again next year, as we were the last three, four, five years.

We expect to be there. That's the standard we live by. I said earlier, our task ahead of us is to get our asses back here in the conference finals and make good on it.
RELATED: Season over -- Sharks go down in double OT

That said, there should be discussions about what to do with chronic playoff underachiever Dany Heatley, who has another three years left on a deal that pays him 7.5 million annually against the salary cap.

Heatley had just one assist in the series.

Im obviously frustrated, Heatley said. I didnt produce enough in the series. We lost.

The window continues to close but again, the core is here for several more years. Whether it will include Heatley remains to be seen.

Its a lost opportunity, we feel that way, no question, Heatley said. We feel we still have a good a team.

The game winner: Bieksa on his knuckeball from the blue line that won it: I shot it, and I think when the puck went in, the goalie was looking behind the net, so its an ugly goal but definitely one youll take, he said. Obviously, it feels unbelievable. To go to the Stanley Cup Final is a dream come true. To do it with this group of guys Our core has been here for seven, eight years, working toward something special, and we have a huge opportunity ahead of us now.

Loose pucks: This was the longest playoff game for the Sharks since their four-overtime Game 6 marathon against Dallas in 2008. Raffi Torres, who threw his share of clean, hard hits in the series and injured Sharks captain Joe Thornton with a legal shoulder-to-shoulder check in Game 4, plowed into defenseman Douglas Murray in the first period. It sounded like two woolly mammoths colliding. Despite a bad right shoulder, Thornton had four shots in the opening period, two during an unsuccessful 5-on-3 power play. Couldnt lift the puck? The Canucks took 10 first period penalties in the series. Canucks were outshot 15-to-6 that period with each of their six defensemen getting at least one block. Thornton took some faceoffs, allowing Patrick Marleau to take neutral zone draws and eventually, all of them, as Thornton took just one draw in the second period. Through two periods, Canucks out-blocked the Sharks, 21-8. Vancouver had 29 blocks in the game. Thornton had a separated shoulder while Clowe had a shoulder injury from the beginning of the playoffs that may require surgery, McLellan said.
Tim Panaccio is the NHL Insider forCSNPhilly.comE-mailhim at tpanotch@comcast.net

Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent


Cowboys expose 49ers' biggest weakness in bashing: Talent

If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J.  Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.

Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.

But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
In the meantime, there is beer.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys


Three things you need to know from 49ers' 40-10 loss vs Cowboys

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 on Sunday:

1. A major step backward
So much for the 49ers’ somewhat-impressive streak of close losses.

There was nothing encouraging about what transpired in the 49ers' worst loss at Levi’s Stadium. It was also the franchise's worst home loss since Mike Singletary's team absorbed a 45-10 thumping against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 11, 2009.

Was there anything positive to take from this game?

“No, not right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was disappointing. I think all three phases, players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that, a lot better to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The competitive nature of the 49ers’ past five games was one thing. But with a big home loss on such an emotional day, it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The 49ers looked like a team devoid of any leadership, and brings more scrutiny onto the organization’s decision last week to release linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Now, the 49ers face a crossroads. With another cross-country trip ahead, the 49ers have to regroup in a hurry in order to avoid another embarrassing blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles.

2. Beathard’s first start
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard certainly was not the reason the 49ers got blown out. In his first NFL start, he showed a lot of toughness, which was to be expected. He was sacked five times. But most of those sacks could have been avoided. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, especially on three-step drops.

Beathard also showed some promise, too. He let the ball fly deep for Marquise Goodwin, who caught four passes for 80 yards. Beathard completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards.

Beathard accounted for the 49ers’ only touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There seems to be little doubt it was in the best interest of the organization to begin evaluating what it has for the future with the permanent switch from Brian Hoyer to Beathard.

3. Dwight Clark’s Day
The 49ers, of course, did nothing to evoke any memories of the great teams on which Dwight Clark played. Well, they did look a lot like Clark’s first team with the 49ers.

The 49ers of 1979 lost their first seven games of the season. This year’s team matched that start for the worst beginning to a season in franchise history.

More than 35 of Clark’s teammates off the 1981 Super Bowl team were in attendance to honor a pay tribute to Clark, who is battling ALS. Now in a wheelchair and considerably lighter, Clark delivered some poignant remarks at halftime.

Clark, 60, told his old teammate, Keena Turner, who works as vice president of football affairs, that all he wanted was to see some of his old teammates.

“And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in, so I could see them one more time,” Clark said.