Ray Ratto

Ratto: Quick saves Kings, puts pressure on Sharks


Ratto: Quick saves Kings, puts pressure on Sharks

Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

SAN JOSE -- Todd McLellan was worried that the Sharks would be too comfortable to close out the Los Angeles Kings. Well, they werent too comfortable Saturday night. They never got the chance.

With a full week to contemplate their future in the second round, the Sharks couldnt dispose of the first, losing on a count-out, 3-1, to the Kings at Le Pavilion de HP to force a sixth game Monday night at Le Centre De Agrafes in Los Angeles.
RECAP: Back to L.A. -- Kings top Sharks to extend series
You know, the home of the Flameout On Figueroa. The last place the Kings took a big early lead.Only most big leads do stand up, and in this case, Jonathan Quick propped it up with a 51-save performance that included a good dozen excellent scoring chances, according to head coach Terry Murray. He was very good tonight. Now we have to go back and win one for him.McLellan, on the other hand, has a fistful of thorns of a goalie problem, after Antti Niemi and poor defense work in front of him combined to allow three goals in four shots in the first 8:42, thus ending the game even before it had a chance to clear its throat.

The first one (by Wayne Simmonds) comes off a hell of a deflection, McLellan said, reviewing the nails in his teams crest. The second one (by Kyle Clifford), he makes a great save off a 2-on-1 that shouldnt exist (turnover by Dan Boyle), and the third one (by Dustin Penner), hes a little deep in his net, and he knows that.But then he added a subtler but more damaging assessment, one that cant be fixed by exchanging a Finn (Antero Niittymaki) for a Finn (Niemi).We have six (defensemen) dressed who are better than they showed tonight, he said. I probably dont have to tell them, but I will remind them of that.Indeed, the Sharks defense has been spotty in all areas, starting with Dan Boyle and running through the group, and Saturday was a particularly painful effort, even though the Sharks ended with 52 shots to only 22 for the Kings.RELATED: NHL playoff scoreboard
This was indeed Quicks game to savor. His 51 saves included both stand-on-his-head beauties and more fundamental skills, both with rebound control and crease command throughout the evening, turning a game the Sharks lost early into one they might never have won under any circumstances.It was especially gratifying for him given that he had allowed 12 goals in the previous five periods.I feel if you come in angry, its going to take away from your game, he said of his mindset in turning hay into gold. You just forget about it, you move on, it doesnt matter how many goals they score in one game. The next game is a clean slate and you start over. Not too many emotions going in. Youre just trying to be even-keel and make the saves to help your team win.He also pointed out that the Sharks threw a lot more shots than quality shots at him.A lot of the shots were from the perimeter, he said. We limited their Grade A chances from last time and I also felt I played a bit better than last time out. Its a great win and were looking forward to Game 6.The Sharks looked best in the first period . . . well, once you forget that the first minutes gave them a splenectomy. But all three periods had that same sense lots of busy work, not so much effective work. And the Kings played the tight, sensible, defensive game they are noted for and that the Sharks have shown little of in this series. Their goaltending is a huge problem (early betting is for Niittymaki in Game 6), and the puck management in their zone has been, if anything, worse. It put them in a hole that their profligate shooting could not overcome, and Quick was everything a goaltender must be in the playoffs.You get to this point, and your goaltender is going to have to win you a game, Murray said. Its been going on for 50 years.But not here, not for the last decade at least. The Sharks havent stolen a series with their goaltending ever, and when the offense cant find a goal and the defense cant handle the puck well enough to prevent them, that becomes a serious issue.In the end, the Sharks got a lot of shots, did little with them, and ran into a goalie at the top of his powers while their own goalie seems to have lost most of his. Game 6 is Monday, and the breathing is getting a little harder. This series is going to take a lot more out of the Sharks than theyd hoped, and it might still take them out entirely. As they say, nothing is safe until its home and dry.

Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy


Dusty Baker's postseason agonies and his Hall of Fame candidacy

Dusty Baker’s face tells a lot of different stories, but there is only one it tells in October.

Disappointment. Deflating, soul-crushing, hopeless disappointment.

With Thursday night’s National League Division Series defeat to the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals have reinforced their place in the panoply of the capital’s legacy of failure.

But Baker’s agonies extend far further. His 3,500 games rank him 15th all-time, and only one manager above him, Gene Mauch, is not in the Hall of Fame. His 105 postseason games ranks seventh all-time, and his nine postseason appearances ranks sixth.

But his postseason record of 44-61 and no World Series titles curse him. He has been on the mailed backhand of eight series losses in 11 tries (plus a play-in game loss in 2013), and been marked by the media-ocracy as an old-school players’ manager who doesn’t wrap himself in the comforting embrace of statistical analysis.

He is now Marv Levy and Don Nelson – the good manager who can’t win the big one.

Only Levy and Nelson are in their respective halls of fame, and Baker probably won’t be. Having no World Series titles (his bullpen dying in 2002 being as close as he ever got) dooms him as it has doomed Mauch, although Mauch made his reputation as a brilliant tactician with bad teams.

But even if you take Baker’s worst metric – the postseason record – he still ranks in the 90th percentile of the 699 managers in the game’s history, though even then there’s the caveat of the 200 some-odd interim managers who you may choose not to count.

This is not to claim he should be in the Hall of Fame. This is to claim he should be discussed, if only to determine if reputations in the postseason are the only way managers are allowed to be evaluated. Because if that’s the case, Dusty Baker’s world-weary October face makes that conversation a very short one.


U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance


U.S. Soccer: Patriotism-fueled frontrunning born of inexcusable arrogance

So Bruce Arena resigned as the U.S. National soccer team coach Friday. Big damned deal.

Oh, it is to him. He probably liked the job, and might have wanted to keep getting paid.

But whether he’s there or isn’t doesn’t matter. In fact, whether the people who hired him are there or not doesn’t matter either. U.S. Soccer is the definition of sporadic interest and patriotism-fueled frontrunning, of imbedded self-interest and general indolence, all born of inexcusable arrogance.

Bruce Arena didn’t bring that to the job, nor does he remove it by leaving. He’s just another head on a spike, like Jurgen Klinsmann was before him, and Bob Bradley before him.

But that would also be true if the head of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, quit or was fired too. Even the people bleating that the U.S. shamed itself by losing to Trinidad and Tobago display the same kind of blinkered ignorance and arrogance that dogs this sport in America.

Being in CONCACAF is a gift from the heavens, and the U.S. has decided as a national collective to replace that with actual achievement. Beating Germany in friendly is proof of long-term worth. The fact is, we don’t know how to evaluate America’s place in the soccer world except as an audience, let alone how much massive structural change is required to change that.

And change must be massive, and can’t be evaluated by the next cheap win or the next galling loss, or television ratings. America is good at watching soccer, good enough to catch on the actual chasm between its national team and development structure.

But that’s where it ends, because knowing what’s bad because you just watched it, or what is actually good (like, say, a UEFA or CONMEBOL qualifier) is light years from knowing how to fix a system built on the flawed concepts of work rate without creativity and money as a solution to crippling organizational problems.

So Bruce Arena does the decent thing given the circumstances, falling on a sword that should actually be a kebab skewer. But it makes no difference. The American soccer structure needs to get what it needs before it can get what it wants, and there are no more shortcuts to take in a short-attention-span world.