When Tomas Hertl showed up last season for the San Jose Sharks, he was a breath of fresh air.
His youthful exuberance and ability to score highlight-reel goals gave the already potent Sharks offense another weapon. A knee injury at the hands (read: knees) of Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown cut his season short, but with 15 goals in 37 games he provided the kind of impact that helps a team feel good about the future.
The Sharks had enough confidence in Hertl’s game to buy out Martin Havlat, move Brent Burns back to defense from forward, and to not really sign anyone to replace either of them up front. While Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture help make up an offensively frightening top-six with the forwards, it’s Hertl who figures to be the key.
Sound crazy? Not so much.
Hertl, while he was in the lineup, spent most of his time on a line with Thornton and Burns and was a dominant possession player (only Thornton and Pavelski were better amongst forwards). Keeping the puck and scoring a bunch of goals makes him invaluable.
With Burns now back on the blue line, Sharks coach Todd McLellan could create a Corsi nightmare for opponents by assembling a top line with Hertl, Thornton, and Pavelski together. Regardless of whether that happens or not, it’s Hertl that makes things happen for Thornton the set-up man.
With the Sharks offensive options thin outside of the top-six, having Hertl recreate what he did last season is vital for balance between the top two lines. If the goals evaporate, opponents will load up against Couture and Marleau’s line. Giving other teams fits defensively is what’s made the Sharks so good in the past and having Hertl pick up where he left off will only help that out further.
Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.
In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.
This tweet explains it in additional detail.
The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.
We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.
Here’s what you need to know:
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online)
The St. Louis Blues and their fans showed class in how they reacted to Kevin Fiala‘s very, very scary injury during Game 1.
Still, these are two physical Central Division rivals, so you expect to see some nastiness here and there between the Blues and Nashville Predators.
One moment that will likely divide onlookers came when Predators tough guy Austin Watson got a shot in on Vladimir Tarasenko, at least briefly hurting the world-class sniper.
It’s unlikely to be a big deal since Tarasenko seems to be OK, but there may be some debate here. On one hand, there are those who believe Watson got away with a cheap shot; on the other, some seem to imply that there was some embellishment. Maybe it’s even a combination of the two?
Either way, the Predators enter the third period up 3-1, so St. Louis will likely ask Tarasenko to focus on getting revenge by scoring goals.
In the first round, P.K. Subban was dominant against the Chicago Blackhawks, but mainly if you look at “fancy stats.” There’s nothing wrong with two assists in that sweep, but those aren’t jaw-dropping numbers.
You don’t need to dig deep to see his impact on Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. A mere glance at the box score – or a chance to see his blistering shot – and you’ll realize that the Nashville Predators defenseman has been a nightmare for Jake Allen & Co. so far on Wednesday.
Subban seemingly scored his first postseason goal with the Predators to make it 1-0, but Colin Wilson was actually credited with the tally.
No bother there. Subban gave the Predators a crucial lift shortly after player resumed following Kevin Fiala‘s horrifying injury, getting that first Predators playoff goal with another booming shot.
Subban managed to draw a slashing penalty on Scottie Upshall and also sent another huge shot to set up a James Neal goal. There’s no mistaking that P.K. has played a huge role in Nashville going up 3-1 so far; the Blues need to find some answers, and fast.
The crowd in St. Louis was sent to stunned silence at the scary sight of Nashville Predators rookie Kevin Fiala crashing feet-first into boards during the first period of Game 1.
Fiala was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he awkwardly hit the boards following a hit by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. An arena announcement indicated that Fiala will be taken to a nearby hospital.
The Predators announced that Fiala is alert and stable in an update.
It’s a cruel twist for the 20-year-old forward, whose high-end speed stands out most when you first see him. A bit longer than a week ago, he scored the biggest goal of his career as he ended Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks with the overtime-clincher. Now one has to wonder about his bigger-picture health.
Members of the Blues and Predators both escorted Fiala off the ice during a stunning moment for all involved.