Ray Ratto

Ratto: Ferriero caps Sharks' best playoff game in years


Ratto: Ferriero caps Sharks' best playoff game in years

April 29, 2011


Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

SAN JOSE -- Benn Ferriero. Of course Benn Ferriero. Why the hell not Benn Ferriero?

I mean, Friday was his birthday. Hed never played in a Stanley Cup playoff game before. He had been on the ice for 4:38 of the entire game. Hed taken one shot, on his only shift of the third period. Hed been, well, a fourth-line wing on a three-line team, and happy just to hear coach Todd McLellan say, Be ready.

Until the solar system parted and he threw a what-the-hell shot at something that looked like the Detroit Red Wings' net. And his shot, which looked like it was heading for the crowd net, hit defenseman (and former Shark) Brad Stuarts stick high on the shaft, rocketed down and skipped between goalie Jimmy Howards pads for the overtime winner in San Joses 2-1 victory in Game 1 of this Western Conference semifinal.

It was so planned, so well-constructed, that Ferriero wore this grin throughout his interviews that said, What a lucky boy am I?

RELATED: Sharks steal Game 1 in OT

That was pretty much it, he said after San Jose's best playoff game in years. Cooch (Logan Couture) and (Detroits Justin) Abdelkader fought along the wall for it, Cooch got it to me, I just turned and threw it at the net, and it hit a stick or skate or something and it just went in.

RECAP: Sharks steal Game 1 on Ferriero's OT goal

In other words, your standard playoff overtime goal -- a sloppy, goofy, happy mess for a kid who was considered an afterthought in Phoenix and was biding his time in the Sharks system up until the moment when McLellan got his inspiration.

He told me about 30 seconds before to get ready to go on, Ferriero said of McLellan. Thats my job, to stay ready for when Im called upon.

Inspiration? More like a shot in the dark.

Oh, Im no genius, he said of his decision to insert Ferriero on the fourth line with Scott Nichol and Ben Eager. He just brought some things to the table that I thought we needed, is all. Wed had some guys who were out there (on an extended power play) pretty long, and I thought we were getting to the point where we were going to go to some of our other guys.

Yeah. Overtime. Legs getting wonky. Five minutes and the winning goal. Thats pretty specific duty for a guy who under normal circumstances would be at a bar toasting his own 24th birthday.

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The goal ended a sensational game, one dominated by the Sharks with presence and persistence, but dominated even more by the spectacular work of Howard, the Detroit goalie who was blamed by many for the Wings exit from the playoffs last year at the hands of the Sharks. Howard was nicked for only a Joe Pavelski open-aired swat at 10:22 of the third period of the 45 shots he saw before Ferrieros, and was as good as Los Angeles Jonathan Quick had been in the Sharks first series.

But the game truly turned in the overtime, in a four-and-a-half minute swing that nearly blew up on the Sharks.

It began when defenseman Niclas Wallin blocked Abdelkaders shot on a 4-on-1 rush toward San Jose goalie Antti Niemi, and as the two headed to chase the puck in the corner, Abdelkaders stick caught Wallin somewhere in the beard, he laughed.

Wallins beard bleeds, then, because Abdelkader went off on a double-minor for high-sticking, and though the power play did not go well for San Jose (three shots, none of them truly worrisome and nine clears), it did not take them long to re-establish the Detroit zone as base camp.

Thats where Couture came in battling Abdelkader for a puck along the wall to Howards right.

I just sort of got body position on him, and got in on his stick and knocked the puck to Benny, Couture said. That was about it.

Ferriero collected the puck, took a stride and leaned into a left turn and then did the one thing that makes the most sense in such chaos. He threw a shot at the net from the top of the faceoff circle.
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They tell you that when youre a little guy, shoot and see what happens, defenseman Dan Boyle said. Thats what he did.

And it was an OK enough shot, just nothing great, until it clipped Stuarts stick. It also looked like it might have caught fellow defenseman Niklas Kronwall, but all he did was help obscure Howards view from the puck that changed directions so radically.

When the puck went in, at 7:03, Stuart hurled his stick with one hand into the netting behind the glass in disgust. The Sharks exploded with glee at their fourth overtime win. And McLellan breathed a sigh of relief.

They did such a good job killing the penalty, and maybe if Bennie shot doesnt go in, now theyve got momentum, he said, ever the worrying type. We would have had to regroup, settle ourselves, because you dont convert on something like that, you sometimes tend to droop a little.

There was no droopage, though. Benn Ferriero had been kissed on the head by whatever deity was handling hockey this weekend, and got his goal, on his second shot, in his sixth minute of playoff hockey of his first playoff game.

You cant make it up. Well, you could. You just wouldnt ever be able to sell the screenplay to anyone who doesnt have his office in the trunk of his car, is all. But be sure to give it a snappy title.

Like, "Why The Hell Not Benn Ferriero?" Fits on a poster quite nicely.

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?”