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My Favorite Goal: Tomas Hertl goes between-the-legs

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Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers and personalities remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, RotoWorld’s Ryan Dadoun remembers Tomas Hertl‘s four-goal night against the Rangers, which he capped off with a between-the-legs beauty.

When I’m watching a sporting event, any sporting event, I want to see creativity and emotion. As someone in his mid-30s who has spent his whole life in Toronto, one of the most memorable sporting moments I have is Jose Bautista’s bat flip. It perfectly embodied the jubilation and release of frustration that the city was feeling at that time. It also drew ire from some who viewed it as disrespectful. That argument has always rubbed me the wrong way, which leads me to my favorite goal, Tomas Hertl’s fourth against the New York Rangers on Oct. 8th, 2013.

It was a between-the-legs, top shelf goal on Martin Biron and while Hertl didn’t do anything as dramatic as flip his stick after the goal, he was clearly thrilled and the goal itself, some would argue, was needlessly fancy. Plus, Hertl’s San Jose Sharks had a 7-2 lead in the third period even before that goal. If there were people who took issue with Bautista showing that level of emotion after nailing a critical home run in a playoff game, you can imagine that there were people who took issue with Hertl’s actions for a needless goal in an early October contest.

Hall of Famer Adam Oates, who was the head coach of the Washington Capitals at that time, was one of the most famous ones to object to Hertl’s goal.

“I’m upset. I was just talking to George [McPhee] and he said all the kids do that nowadays, which I understand. But would he have done it on his first goal?” Oates said in 2013 via the Washington Post. “He hasn’t scored yet tonight and he gets a breakaway, is he going to do that on his breakaway? We’ll see.

“I think it was a little bit of a mood thing, which I’m sure they talked about, because they didn’t play him after that. I’m glad the coach did that because this league, it will bite you if you’re not sharp. Don’t disrespect the league. I’m sure it was a rookie mistake.”

Don Cherry was the other huge voice against Hertl’s celebration.

“There’s been a lot said about a lot of things, but let me say something: If the score [had] been 1-1, I would have said ‘Hey, what a goal!’ But I want you people out there to think about this: I want you think if Martin Biron was your son or your brother in an 8-2 [game], and everybody’s laughing at him,” Cherry said of Hertl, per Yahoo Sports.

He added, “I’m going to say something about the kid. He didn’t think he did anything wrong. He played in the Czech Republic last year. This is what they do. You can see him laughing at it. He didn’t understand. And kids, you don’t do that.”

With Cherry’s far more recent comments in the back of our minds, let’s awkwardly side step his assertion that Hertl didn’t know any better because he had been playing in the Czech Republic and instead look at the other argument: What if Biron was your brother? The Sharks had already won that game, so what purpose did Hertl’s goal serve other than to humiliate your theoretical brother?

Well, first off, your brother is a professional player getting well compensated to compete, not just for the sake of competing, but for the entertainment of others. The entire economy of the sport that allows these players to make the big bucks is based around the idea that they’re fun to watch. That people are willing to pay good money to watch them play. So entertainment value has meaning in and of itself and while you’re naturally rooting for your brother’s success every time he’s involved in a play, you have to be prepared to take some bad with the good, given how much the good outweighs the bad in this situation.

Obviously these are human beings we’re talking about, not just vehicles for entertainment. They deserve to be treated with respect. That’s why things like prioritizing player safety and weeding out abusive coaches is so important. The emotions of the moment can only excuse so much. Even so, there is still room for players to express joy and creativity even at the risk of some other players having their feelings hurt in the moment. 

Secondly, the goal wasn’t completely meaningless. While it didn’t impact the outcome of the game, it does have historical and more immediate context that’s fun to get into. It was a four-goal game scored in just Hertl’s third career contest. It came immediately after he scored two goals on Oct. 5th, giving him at the time six goals in three career games. It was fun to think about what the future might hold for him and the fact that he scored on a fancy move highlighted an extra level of skill that made him all the more worth tuning in to going forward, again tying back into the entertainment value that’s leading to the big bucks being made.

The move itself also makes the moment memorable. It turned what would have been a relatively meaningless blowout win in early October into a game we remember. It was something a little different, something a little fresh. Maybe that’s because older players have learned to show more restraint, but maybe rather than that being a knock on Hertl’s youth, it’s a knock on the conformity in the league. The idea that you shouldn’t give your all to score because you already have a big lead or the idea that you shouldn’t be celebratory when you score your fourth goal because it didn’t meaningfully impact the score itself just feels a little lifeless to me. You’re losing a little something special in the process.

Four goals is special. It’s worth trying for, for its own sake. Fancy goals are interesting and could throw off goaltenders. It’s worth attempting them from time-to-time. And I’d argue that celebrations are worth having when something big, like scoring fourth goal in a single game at the age of 19, happens. Rather than demean players, it humanizes the sport and shows that these are real people with real feelings playing the game, even if in the process some feelings might unfortunately get a little hurt. Though to that point, hurt feelings can also lead to fierce rivalries, which help make sports as worth watching as they are.

It’s worth adding that while there were some big names who were against Hertl’s celebration, he did have one big defense. Joe Thornton made a NSFW comment that arguably ended up being more famous than the goal itself. Those comments also ended up sparking another separate controversy about when a reporter should regard what’s being said in a locker room as off the record.

Another person whose take is interesting is the person on the receiving end of the goal, Biron. He enjoyed a 508-game NHL career and Hertl’s goal was scored in his 507th contest. Rather than be upset with the goal specifically, Biron was more upset with his play and the situation he was in with the Rangers at the twilight of his career.

“Our bench were going to gun for him, obviously, because it’s 8-2, he scored four goals, and he’s celebrating like he just won the Stanley Cup,” Biron told The Athletic in 2018. “I didn’t really realize (Hertl) celebrating too much, but I know that our players after the game said some of the veterans like Couture and Joe (Thornton) got up over the bench and said don’t worry, we’ll talk to him. … The (Sharks) veterans were like, we know he overdid it.

“But the kid was young, his family was in the stands, it’s exciting. I get that. There’s a bit of old school/new school (debate) that goes into that. So I wasn’t mad because of the goal itself. It was more the situation. It was kind of the beginning of the end. I played in St. Louis a few days later and it didn’t go well, and I was like, it’s time to move on.”

As for Hertl, that four-goal game offered a window into his potential. In the years that followed, there would be growing pains, until he really began to click late in 2017-18 and then broke out in 2018-19 with 35 goals and 74 points in 77 games. He’s carried that success into this season as well and is now one of the cornerstones of the Sharks’ offense. He even added two more hat tricks back in January, but for me that fourth goal back in 2013 remains the most memorable moment of his career, both for what it was and for the discuss it sparked.

PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL
McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final
Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie
Malik’s stunning shootout winner
Paul Henderson scores for Canada
Lemieux’s end-to-end masterpiece; Hextall scores again

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

Martin Biron announces his retirement

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After being demoted by the New York Rangers last week, Martin Biron is retiring from the game.

The New York Rangers announced Biron was hanging it up after 16 seasons in the NHL which saw him playing as a backup goalie for the better part of it.

Biron’s career began with the Buffalo Sabres at the age of 18 after being their first-round pick in 1995. Perhaps his best season as a pro came in 2001-02 with Buffalo when he played in 72 games for the Sabres winning a career-high 31 games and put up career-best 2.22 goals-against average at age 24.

He gained his most fame, however, as a Philadelphia Flyer during the 2007-08 season winning 30 games and having a career-high .918 save percentage while leading the team to the Eastern Conference Final against Pittsburgh before losing in five games.

In 508 career games played, Biron finished with 230 wins and 28 shutouts. His career came to an ignominious end this season after being scorched in relief by the San Jose Sharks including allowing a highlight-reel goal to rookie Tomas Hertl.

Biron tweeted his announcement as well.

As one of the most quotable players in the league, expect to see him on TV with someone in the near future. We’ll also remember him for his ability to hang tough in a goalie fight as well.

Biron clears waivers, uncertain about future

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Veteran Rangers goalie Martin Biron cleared waivers on Tuesday, but it’s unclear what lies ahead.

Biron, 36, will reportedly take a few days to figure out if he’ll report to AHL Hartford or consider retirement, according to TVA’s Louis Jean.

It’s been an odd past few weeks for the longtime NHLer. Things began strangely at Rangers’ training camp — Biron was absent for the first two days with an unspecified personal issue, forcing the Blueshirts to bring in Johan Hedberg on a PTO.

Upon his return, Biron spoke guardedly about his absence:

“I’m where I need to be. I’m focused and I’m really where I wanted to be this morning.

“I was excited to be here. I was excited to be on the ice and get going with the guys, definitely. I’m not going to go into details, it’s just how life is sometimes and you’ve got to roll with it.

“Again, I was fortunate I was able to get home and now to be back.”

According to ESPN New York, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault “appear unconvinced” about Biron as the club’s backup right from start of camp. Vigneault’s opinion went unchanged early in the regular season — strengthened, even — after Biron went 0-1-0 in two appearances with a 7.61 GAA and .763 save percentage.

“It’s a performance-based business, and the organization felt Marty’s first two performances were not what we expected, [so] we decided to put him on waivers,” Vigneault said. “We’re gonna get together this afternoon as a group and talk about where we go from there.”

What’s odd is that, statistically speaking, Biron’s been one of the NHL’s best backup goalies over the last two years.

He didn’t play much in 2013, but was solid when called upon, posting a 2-2-1 record with a .917 save percentage and 2.32 GAA.

The year prior he appeared in 21 games, posting a 12-6-2 record with a .904 save percentage and 2.46 GAA.

He was also lauded for a strong working relationship with starter Henrik Lundqvist.

Biron could accept his fate with the Rangers and report to the American League, a place he hasn’t played since a rehab assignment during the 2009-10 campaign. Teammate Arron Asham, who was placed on waivers as well, has already said he’d report to Hartford.

Talbot joins Rangers as new backup

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Soon we will find out if Rangers goaltender Martin Biron has been claimed on waivers or cleared. If its the latter as expected, then he will be sent to the minors as the Rangers have already named Henrik Lundqvist’s new understudy.

Goaltender Cam Talbot and forward J.T. Miller have been summoned from AHL Hartford, according to the Bergen Record’s Andrew Gross.

Johan Hedberg, 40, was believed to be another contender to replace Biron as the team’s backup after the two veterans competed for the job during training camp. However, their decision to go with Talbot doesn’t come as a surprise.

The 26-year-old netminder has no NHL experience, but did finish the 2012-13 campaign with a 2.63 GAA and .918 save percentage in 55 AHL games. Talbot has put up similar numbers in the minors in three games this season.

The Rangers are off to a rough start and Biron certainly wasn’t alone in his struggles. Even goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has a 4.21 GAA and .887 save percentage as the Rangers try to work through some defensive issues.

New York will try to end its three-game losing streak on Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.

Rick Nash placed on IR, still has symptoms (update)

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Update: The New York Rangers have placed Rick Nash on the injured reserve, according to sources including ESPN.

Rick Nash still isn’t skating nearly a week after being subjected to a high hit from San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart. Unfortunately, that’s not the worst part.

“He’s still feeling symptoms, so until I hear otherwise I don’t expect him back,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault explained, according to the team’s Twitter account.

If the Rangers ever needed Nash, it’s now. They have lost four of their first five games and have been outscored 20-5 in their last three contests. The Rangers have put Martin Biron and Arron Asham on waivers as an early attempt to turn things around before they find themselves in too big of a hole.

This is the second time this year that Nash has been sidelined with a suspected concussion. The last one occurred on Feb. 12 when he absorbed a hit from Boston’s Milan Lucic.