Ray Ratto

Ratto: Canucks constrict Sharks to win in Game 1


Ratto: Canucks constrict Sharks to win in Game 1


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Todd McLellan put the end of San Joses night at the 17-minute mark of the second period. Before that, he said, they were doing well enough. After that, they got leg-heavy and brain-weary. They got, well, a little bit doggy.

I thought our team looked tired, sluggish, the San Jose head coach said as he surveyed the shards of Vancouver's 3-2 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. There are nights when we lose our legs, but our minds are still pretty sharp. I didn't think that was the case tonight. It started with the ears and worked all the way through the body. We were like dogs chasing cars down the freeway.

Well, woof, to coin a phrase. The cars arent going to go any slower, so the dogs better either find parked ones or get a better head start on the moving ones.

RELATED: Sharks drop Game 1, can't contend with Canucks' comeback

The underpinning of McLellans remarks was that somehow the weariness of the Detroit series suddenly grabbed them by the calves and cerebra with about three minutes left in the second period, and that the Canucks poised themselves to counterattack and win the day.

Well, OK. But thats pretty much how Vancouver usually does it, which is why the Canucks have home ice, and why they won Game 1.

What is more, the Canucks established signs earlier in the game that they were either fresher, more determined, or more properly wired for the kind of game that awaited them.

They won faceoffs, they didnt let the Sharks win and keep the offensive zone with any regularity, and they played well enough to keep the Sharks within arms reach even after goalie Roberto Luongos howler of a clearance, ostensibly aimed at Henrik Sedin but delivered neatly to Joe Thornton for the games first goal.

In short, San Jose got a gift, and didnt press its advantage . . . maybe because it couldnt. Maybe it was Motor City Syndrome, or the Seventh Game Blues.

PHT: Third period determines outcome of Game 1

Then again, all the other teams who came off seventh games this postseason won their next game except Philadelphia, which played Boston, also coming off a seven-game series.

More likely, the Sharks never established a hold of the game, and let the Canucks hang around long enough to do so. Thats way worse than We were tired from the Detroit series.

We put the puck into very poor spots, McLellan said, essentially revealing the lady behind the curtain. They eventually beat us at the type of game we wanted to play. They laid it in behind, they won a lot of races, they sustained offensive zone time.

And the cruncher?

We got to find a way to get energized as a hockey club, he said. That starts with the mental part of it first.

Oh, there were enough things to grumble about if the Sharks wanted to do so. Dany Heatley looked to have been hosed on an offside call as he was poised to break in alone on Luongo, and he also had an issue both during and after the game with the third period elbowing call he took on Raffi Torres that came between Kevin Bieksas tying goal at 7:02 of the third and Henrik Sedins game-winner at 8:21.

And everyone could add five penalties for the Sharks and one for the Canucks and turn it into a talking point.

But that obscures the greater truth of this series, revealed already for your enjoyment and edification.

The Sharks cannot win with Antti Niemi at the business end of a jai alai fronton. They cannot win by staying close. They have to win by establishing the parameters of the game early, and holding them throughout. They are playing a team with deeper talent, and the best way to negate that is to do more than start as the superior team. It is to maintain it.

I thought for 37 minutes we were able to skate, McLellan said. We needed to get a couple more opportunities to go in for us. Basically what happened, I thought the team that potentially was rusty -- because they hadn't played for a while -- found their legs while we lost ours.

When you look at the route we took to get here, they had a few days off. We had an emotional, taxing game. You know we're lucky enough to be playing.

One Shark who didnt play was defenseman Jason Demers, a pregame scratch that came as a surprise to most observers. He did come off the ice late in Game 7 of the Detroit series covering his ribs, but McLellan said only, He has bumps and bruises, like everyone else.

In his stead, Kent Huskins made his first appearance since February, and was not either an appreciable plus or minus. Ben Eager and Jamal Mayers were reunited on the fourth line on Scott Nichols flanks, and Eager had his most solid game of the postseason, with three purposeful shots, and a couple of Hi, nice to see you hits on Alexander Edler and Daniel Sedin.

But this was not a game of individual highs for the Sharks. They held their own again Ryan Keslers line, but the Sedin line combined for 11 shots and the two third period goals that punctuated what was being revealed well before that.

Playing Vancouver even is playing Vancouver from behind. Maybe Game 1 can be laid in part at the feet of the taxing Detroit series, but Game 2 cannot. Not if the Sharks plan to reach the finals.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

Celtics are the rivals Warriors fans need

You don’t think you needed this game to go this way, but you did, and you do.

The Golden State Warriors spat out a 17-point lead and lost, 92-88, in Boston Thursday night, in a game that was taut if not particularly elegant, and in a game that elevated the Celtics to a place that makes them the new heir apparent to the heir apparent.

The Celtics have been a difficult out for the Warriors during the Brad Stevens Era, losing six of nine but only being blown out twice, and Thursday was not one of those nights. The box score will tell you the shooting and rebounding problems, but the Warriors had that lead and didn’t hold it. Or, to be accurate, the Celtics had that deficit and refused to let it destroy them.

Which is exactly the kind of team you, the fully licensed Warrior fan, want to watch play your team in the NBA Finals. You want to see them genuinely challenged, forced to win outside their comfort zone, induced to show their greatness in the highest of high leverage situations.

At least we think that’s what you want. Maybe you prefer blowouts so you can drink and go to the bathroom without care or fear. After all, the Warriors have taught the area the true meaning of front-running by being in front so often.

But the Celtics play a level of defense typically reserved for the San Antonio Spurs, and yes, the Warriors. They have a spiky exoskeleton that the acquisition of Kyrie Irving has actually enhanced, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum give them a gifted precocity that fits well with veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Morris, and Boston’s overall youth (they are fifth youngest, while Golden State is third-oldest) ought to make them a more difficult conundrum than Cleveland or any other team in either conference.

They are not yet the superior team; that remains to be proven, and betting against the Warriors requires a level of irrational bravery left only for the truly self-destructive.

But they are, as we sit this evening, the team the Warriors will have to work hardest to finish, because on a night when they had the chance to do so, they didn’t. In other words, the fight for a third ring still goes through Oakland, but it looks more and more like a one-stop through Boston.

And as much as you may hate thinking about it, you’ll almost certainly remember, and savor, a Celtics-Warriors final more than another round of Cavs-on-the-half-shell.

Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor


Three reasons Draymond Green is the perfect college professor

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage starts today at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming live right here 

Draymond Green spoke to a group of students at Harvard Thursday on the subject of leadership, and if you find that incongruous, shame on you.
I mean, who else would you want as a college professor?
Green has led, and been led. He has learned, and he has taught. He has certainly lectured, as any teammate, official and media member will testify. He’d be a hell of a teacher, and the subject almost doesn’t matter.
For one, homework would be different, as in I’d bet there would be no written work. I don’t see Prof. Day-Day poring over essays about the Industrial Revolution, M-theory or pre-Raphaelite art. Not even the history of Basketball-Reference.com.

For two, having tenured faculty audit his classes may find his choice of rhetoric a little strident, as in “What the ---- were you thinking, dude?” is not typically approved instructional methodology.
And three, nobody would get a grade. Green would mark every exam with a “35,” as in his draft position, and besides, the exams would be students arguing with each other over whether that was a foul or a no-call, and who pulled the better face when the call was made. He’d give either an approving nod or give the loser a second technical foul and kick him or her out of class.
But it would be a hell of a class. Not at Harvard, of course, because Green probably would want to teach a school that could better use his brand of wisdom, and Harvard kids already have a healthy lead off third base. He’d want his students to make Harvard students cry, you can just tell.
But wouldn’t he look perfectly Draymond in a cap and gown on graduation day, pulling a bottle out of his sleeve to make the valedictory speeches less painful. “Damn, dude,” you could hear him yell. “Peaking?”