Ray Ratto

Ratto: Don't hang Sharks' Gm. 2 crash on Eager


Ratto: Don't hang Sharks' Gm. 2 crash on Eager

May 18, 2011


Ray Ratto

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The San Jose Sharks have been here before -- asking themselves, at least to themselves, if they really are prepared to pay full retail for being in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.Wednesday, though, the questions came with a surprising answer: Well, Ben Eager did -- sort of.This wont be a salute to Eagers game, which was a one-goal, four-penalty-plus-a-misconduct mess of hyperactivity. He gave some, and gave up more. He was Ben Eager, period.But he wasnt what turned Game 2 of the Western Conference Final with the Vancouver Canucks into the 7-3 failure-ama it became. He did not act out of character. Which may be the problem with too many of his mates.
Without a doubt, head coach Todd McLellan said when asked if this was another classic Sharks system failure. I'm not going to sit here and try to protect them. We lost composure, we were frustrated. As I said earlier, when you're second, you tend to be frustrated. We've got some work to do. We've got some guys that need to ask themselves some questions, answer them, and pull the skates a little tighter.What, again?Yes, apparently. Again. Too many simple one-on-one battles lost to the Canucks. Too many mistakes that come from those lost battles. And in the third period, a festival of venting that made a 3-2 game that they might have tied against the run of play into a game they let deteriorate into one of their worst postseason performances ever.Be not fooled. San Jos did not lose this game; Vancouver won it by being better across the board. Sure, the winning goal by defenseman Kevin Bieksa, on a breakaway started while the Sharks were all up ice even though Vancouvers Chris Higgins had the puck was a killer -- he broke in clear and without making much of a move wristed a 24-footer low to Antti Niemis glove side.I thought one of the turning points, in my opinion, was their third goal, McLellan said. We have a set forecheck. We've practiced that since September. A player gets skated, all of a sudden it's in your net. You can't chase this team. They're too good. You have to play with them or ahead of them. From there it started to unravel.And it did. Thats where Eagers contributions turned sour. Boarding Daniel Sedin . . . tripping Mason Raymond in front of the Vancouver bench to set up Higgins goal, Vancouvers fourth . . . a roughing call on Roberto Luongo that happened while he was scoring San Joses final goal . . . then a cross-checking and a misconduct penalty nine second from games end.But the game was lost earlier than the box scores indicates. Vancouver is the superior side, and there can be no more doubt about that. Whatever the Sharks get from this series will have to come in defiance of the odds, the skill level and the competition.But this is exactly how they got the reputation for hitting E too early.
Yes, Vancouver is better, but not four goals better, not dominating possession and zone time better, and certainly not composure better. Even Bieksas fight with Patrick Marleau late in the second period, which had some Sharks grousing about Bieksas reputation as a guy who fights selectively against non-heavyweights, produced no useful response from the Sharks.And heres the killer, again from McLellan.We had some guys that really showed up and committed themselves to the team. Then we had some guys that weren't sure.That is the most damning sentence of all. And heres the second worst.We've got to regroup," he said. "We've got to find some composure, take our battle level up. With that being said, as I mentioned, there's a few people in our group, and I'm not going to hide them anymore, they have to ask themselves whether or not they want to keep on competing.And the ones to whom McLellan referred?I'll hide that part. You guys get to decide.Thats the worst sign of all -- when a coach lets the media pick out the players who worked hard enough from the ones who didnt. Thats the international sign of, OK, you guys did it to yourselves again. Now youre going to undo it, or live with the consequences.This is a tactic that sometimes works. It is also the last card in the deck. There is nothing more after this except the players themselves -- raw and naked against a buffeting wind of derision and disrespect. They either make this a series now, or they slink off worse off than they were when they began -- and back on the list of the games great underachievers.And Ben Eager? He was Ben Eager to the end, which is more than can be said of too many of his mates.

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?”