Ray Ratto

Ratto: Sharks win it their way, the hard way


Ratto: Sharks win it their way, the hard way

Ray Ratto

LOS ANGELES -- In the frantic moments between joy and composure, Todd McLellan said it best, and fastest.

Its the Sharks, he said with a rueful laugh. Thats what we do.

That is scare themselves and everyone around them half-dead, and then sometimes to go all the way. Monday they stopped short.
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Joe Thorntons quick spin-and-shoot 2:22 into overtime propelled the Fins to a 4-3 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings, and a second-round date with one of their two most prominent nemeses, either Detroit or Chicago.

In fact, it was a big night for lot of Sharks who had been taking a bit of a lashing this postseason.
There was Thornton, who scored the game-winner by getting in front of defenseman Willie Mitchell and one-timed a shot off a clot in front of the net into a wide open net.

There was Dany Heatley, who had given the Sharks a 3-2 lead with a nasty one-timer off what he called a jump ball of a pass from Ryane Clowe at 8:48.

RATTO: Game 6 notebook

And there was the penalty kill, one of San Joses weakest links, rising to its best work in timing out a five-minute charging penalty to Jamie McGinn at 16:37 for running Brad Richardson that seemed to have doomed the Sharks to a seventh game and all the windpipe problems those brings.

The Kings had scored two of their first three goals on power plays, and McGinns mistake looked like the killer, though McLellan was conciliatory for the moment.

He did what we asked him to do, we wanted him to be aggressive, he said of McGinn. We obviously didnt want the penalty there, but we wanted him to be aggressive.

And they survived that aggression, as badly timed and egregious as it was. Next stop, the second round, where the battle gets exponentially harder.

The first period showed that the Sharks can be re-trained. They were smarter in their own end, quicker out of their own end, better at getting into the Kings passing lanes, used all four lines more than they had in the first five games, and put consistent pressure on the Los Angeles defense.

And . . . they got no goals. Again.

This time, they put 16 shots on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, making it 85 in the six first periods so far, with only a Dany Heatley score in Game 1 to show for all that hyperactivity. In fact, when you throw in blocked shots and missed shots, they threw 30 in Quicks direction, a sign of puck ownership that they did far well efficaciously in game 4.

But in terms of following instructions and resembling the team that raced through the second half of the regular season, they did fine. There is, after all, no other way for them to advance, and one got the feeling that the only way they could fail was to deviate from their first period performance.

Joe Pavelskis line was again the most active, and Pavelski the most singularly active, getting off five shots, most of them from close enough and with sufficient consequence to pass as good chances.

The Kings, on the other hand, got only one shot from its pest line of Brad Richardson, Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, as the Sharks did a much more thorough job of playing in all three zones.

It was also a more physical game than any of the others, with more purposeful hits in better context to the game than in any of the first five. Hits are a dodgy stat given that they awarded by home team stat crews, but the two teams combined for 42 (LA won, 26-16, in case you care), and it only stood to get crankier as the night went on.

The second period was closer, but it was also more wide open, resulting in goals from Kyle Wellwood and Jason Demers from San Jose and Justin Williams for L.A.

Wellwoods goal came after Joe Thornton retrieved his backhand and returned it to him for an open 18-footer from just inside the low hash at 2:58 that beat the de-sticked Jonathan Quick. Thornton, though, returned the work when he was flagged for a high-sticking double-minor at 11:04, and the Kings eventually turned it into the game-squarer. Williams followed a long rebound of a Jack Johnson drive and found the unguarded half of Antti Niemis net at 13:27.

The Kings were gathering momentum when Demers one-timed a pass from the right side by Pavelski and beat Quick at 16:52, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead they knew how to hold in the regular season (they were 19-1-2 in games allowing two or fewer goals since January 15). But those Sharks seem like a phenomenon of a thousand years ago; these seem destined to make you chew your nails to the second knuckle.

Worse for them, the Kings were finally hitting their stride after 30 minutes of being owned by the visitors. The Sharks would need a third goal to feel any comfort, and comfort is what they do worst of all.

Of course, they didnt get that before the Kings got their second, 18 seconds into the third period. Douglas Murrays clearing pass was cut off by Ryan Smyth, who then beelined it toward the net just ahead of Boyle, who was trying to collect Murrays clear, in time to follow Jarret Stolls right-angled shot to tie the game.

Dany Heatley then won the game at 8:48 with a nostalgically wicked snap shot off a wobbly Ryane Clowe pass that Brad Richardson couldnt clear, and Trevor Lewis won it back at 11:39 in the dying moments of a Jason Demers interference penalty, which was the second poorest decision of the period by a Shark.

The worst came at 16:37, when Jamie McGinn ran Richardson into the boards with a head shot in the Sharks offensive zone and got hit with a major and a game misconduct, giving the Kings a five-minute penalty and left the Sharks one man shorthanded thereafter. Even for those partisans who thought the punishment was excessive, the intent was clear, the distance from thought to execution was considerable, and the decision was unfathomably poor.

The Sharks killed off the first 3:23 of the penalty despite a couple of close calls, then went off for the start of overtime knowing that if they won this game, they would feel far more lucky than good.

Then again, Its the Sharks. Sounds almost like a sitcom, doesnt it?

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?”