Sharks own track record to fit Boyle's own goal

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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Very often, moments like the one San Jose Shark Dan Boyle is enduring are portrayed as a sign from God that you've done something really bad in a prior life, only He (or She, or It) is just getting around to billing you now.

It isn't like that, of course. Some folks might view the Boyle moment as retribution for people close to him, with him merely the instrument of the deity's displeasure.



Sharks-Avalanche Game 3 highlights

Or maybe God bet the Colorado Avalanche, and is just having a little gratuitous fun with the bookie before the payoff.

In any event, moments like Boyle's tend to linger even in our instantly-in-instantly-out culture. The story is that he inadvertently scored the winning goal in overtime against his own team Sunday night, and any moral lessons to come from that are the property of the beholder.

But first, the obligatory setup.

San Jose and Colorado were playing Game 3 of their Western Conference 1-8 series, and the Sharks were dope-slapping the Avs in every way save scoring. They took three times as many shots (51-17), spent the entire night in the Colorado end, and only goalie Craig Anderson's frenzied work kept the game scoreless.

Thus, nobody expected anything but more San Jose jumping on Colorado's chest when Boyle took the puck 50 seconds into the overtime. Ryan O'Reilly, the Colorado wing, was doing his due diligence when he got a piece of Boyle's clearing pass to fellow defenseman Douglas Murray, and to the amazement of all living things, the deflection whipped into a tiny hole between the right post and San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

The winning goal. In overtime. In a game that San Jose was owning. Against a backdrop of previous San Jose playoff failures. More proof that if there is a supreme being, it is one who cares about sports and has a particularly impish sense of humor.

In fact, that sense of humor is so good that the play is being portrayed today as Boyle scoring on his own team, the way Minnesota Viking Jim Marshall did in 1961 when he ran the wrong way with a fumble.

There are lots of ways to parse the game, of course. Why didn't Nabokov hug the post a little tighter? Why couldn't the Sharks even go 1 for 51? Did Anderson just peak his career with the performance of a lifetime? Can O'Reilly become a hero because of this single act of diligence?

On the last one, no. This will be about Boyle, and more broadly about the Sharks, who have become a testimonial to the most spectacular forms of underachievement. You just don't get moments like that in the YouTube era without someone paying for it.

Granted, Boyle did get lucky in that the play didn't get as much notice as it might have. The game was played in the wrong half of the continent, and the incident happened well after much of the nation had already hit the rack. Plus, it came on the same day as NBA playoff games, Kevin Garnett's actual suspension, Ben Roethlisberger's impending suspension, the jail cell suicide of boxer Edwin Valero after allegedly confessing to his wife's murder and lots of other whatnot and who-forth in the world of sport.

Of course, this works the other way, too. Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hitter Saturday for Colorado was thoroughly overshadowed by a 20-inning Mets-Cardinals game -- which started earlier but ended later -- for the same curvature-of-the-earth reason. Evidently, the deity loves himself some serious Denver.

But that assumes Boyle gives a damn about how he is perceived, which is a fact not in evidence. He is the receptor of spectacularly bad luck, playing for a team that has never achieved what people believe it capable, in a game so one-sided that non-hockey fans could be forgiven for thinking it had been fixed by gamblers.

And he will be no fun to be around for a while. Anger beers never taste the same, and nothing makes a fella in greater need of an anger beer than becoming a punch line, let alone a one-word explanation for an entire organization's historical shortcomings. This is what happens when fair's got nothing to do with it.

But Boyle also has his name on a Stanley Cup, so he can always defer the telling of the story by showing his ring and offering the familiar and often effective "Shut up" rebuttal.

In the meantime, he gets to carry this one awhile -- a franchise's institutional frustrations, combined with the bizarre nature of the achievement, and the bad luck that comes when Somebody Up There doesn't really like you very much.

Or something like that.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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