Hertl a 'bull' and a 'beast' in Sharks' Game 1 win

Hertl a 'bull' and a 'beast' in Sharks' Game 1 win

EDMONTON – When Joe Thornton and Logan Couture got hurt in the final weeks of the regular season, the lights got immediately turned up on Tomas Hertl.

For several seasons now, the Sharks have tried desperately to make Hertl a full-time center, with so-so results. That includes the 2015-16 season when he was in the middle of the third line until January. Coach Pete DeBoer then bumped him up to the top line with Thornton and Joe Pavelski, and he thrived. Hertl even started this season in that spot, too.

But the key to DeBoer-coached teams, as well as general manager Doug Wilson’s philosophy, is strength down the middle. When Thornton, Couture, Hertl and Chris Tierney are all healthy, the Sharks have that.

Thornton, though, is still out, and Couture wasn’t very effective in Game 1 of the Sharks’ first round series with Edmonton on Wednesday.

Hertl rose to fill the void. 

The 23-year-old former first round pick was the Sharks’ most effective forward in their 3-2 overtime triumph, generating Paul Martin’s goal with a strong move to the net and finishing with seven shots and 15 shot-attempts. In the faceoff circle, Hertl went 11-for-15.

"That's the best I've seen Tommy Hertl play in a long time. He was a bull,” Couture said.

DeBoer said: “I thought he was a beast out there tonight. I thought he was awesome. Big man – this is his type of hockey. He was dominant. Need more of that from him.”

Just before the goal, Hertl looked to be a target of the Oilers’ checkers, perhaps due to a hit Hertl threw on Milan Lucic earlier. 

Hertl absorbed a couple of blows, but it didn’t slow him down. It may have even got him going a little bit.

“I have a big body, I need to use it too,” he said. “I like this hockey because I play hard, too. I don’t mind.”

As for Couture’s suggestion that it was Hertl’s best game in awhile, he agreed, although after sitting out the season finale against Calgary it took him a little while to get into Game 1.

“Yeah, it was probably my best game, seven shots – it was [a] really good game for me,” he said. “A little bit tough because I don’t play [for a] week, started a little bit tired. But after, my legs [kept] going.”

With Thornton’s status still in question for the series, Hertl’s performance was perhaps the most encouraging part of the Sharks’ victory. As a key to the team’s playoff run last season and a guy they sorely missed in the Final against Pittsburgh when he got hurt, perhaps he’s developing into one of those guys that plays his best hockey when the games mean the most.

“It’s playoff time,” Hertl said. “[It’s hard], you know? I’m ready for this.”

The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year


The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year

Jannik Hansen's game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday marked the first time he scored in 355 days. 

Hansen last scored on Mar. 30, 2017 against the Edmonton Oilers, his second goal with the Sharks following an in-season trade. His scoring drought, in all, lasted 44 regular season games, 50 if you include the postseason. 

How exactly does a goal-scoring drought last nearly a year? The right (wrong?) circumstances all need to come together, and that was certainly the case for Hansen for much of the last year.

For one, the Danish forward was in and out of the lineup. San Jose played 83 regular season and postseason games between Hansen's second and third goals, and he did not play in 33 of those games. Plenty of players have had rough 50-game stretches, and that's often without not playing for weeks at a time, as Hansen has done a couple of times this season. 

When Hansen did draw into the lineup this year, however, he wasn't generating offense at the same rate he had in the past. This season, Hansen's five-on-five shot rate (6.19 shots per 60 minutes), shot attempt rate (10.53 individual corsi per 60), and unblocked shot attempt rate (8.95 individual fenwick per 60) were all down from his career averages, according to Corsica Hockey. 

That decline is natural, considering Hansen turned 32 just six days ago. Those rates were not down enough, however, to expect him to fail to score in his first 39 appearances this season. Naturally, a long run of bad luck played a big role in Hansen's dry spell.

Hansen went 0-for-66 in shots over the 50 consecutive regular season and playoff games in which he did not score. He's a career 11-percent shooter, and had he shot at his career average, he would have scored seven goals during that time. That feels about right for a bottom-six forward. 

In many ways, all of these factors fed into one another. Hansen wasn't generating shots or scoring, then was scratched, then couldn't find the back of the net when he returned and was scratched again. All the while, fellow fourth-liners Marcus Sorensen (26.7 percent shooting percentage this season), Joel Ward (14.3 percent) and Barclay Goodrow (13.2 percent) were converting on their chances, forcing Peter DeBoer's hand. 

His possession play has been solid all season (50.74 percent corsi-for, per Natural Stat Trick), but the offense hasn't followed. When it does, as was the case Tuesday night, he can be an effective fourth-line forward, and the goal on Tuesday bought him more time to prove it. 

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win


SAN JOSE -- Jannik Hansen scored his first goal of the season and fellow fourth-liners Eric Fehr and Barclay Goodrow also scored to help the San Jose Sharks win their season-high fifth straight game, 6-2 over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Logan Couture added his 30th goal of the season, and Joe Pavelski and Mikkel Boedker also scored to give the Sharks a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with one game in hand.

Brent Burns added three assists and Martin Jones made 26 saves.

The scoring barrage by San Jose spoiled Cory Schneider's return to net for the Devils. Schneider allowed four goals on 14 shots before getting pulled midway through the second period of his first start since March 8. Schneider has lost 11 starts in a row since his last win for the Devils on Dec. 27.

Taylor Hall scored his 32nd goal of the season and Blake Coleman also scored for the Devils, who lead Florida by just one point in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers have two games in hand.

After Hansen and Fehr scored in the first period, Goodrow chipped one in midway through the second period on a surprising night of scoring from the fourth line when he beat Schneider on a 2-on-1.

Couture then scored 40 seconds later on San Jose's first shot against Keith Kinkaid for his third career 30-goal season. Boedker added San Jose's second power-play goal of the night late in the second and the rout was on.

The Sharks got off to a fast start in their first game back from a 3-0 Canadian road trip, scoring three goals in the first period and killing 1:20 of a two-man advantage for New Jersey.

The teams traded goals to start with Fehr beating Schneider over the shoulder from a bad angle and Hall answering when he stole a bouncing puck from Justin Braunand beat Jones with a quick shot.

San Jose then scored twice in a span of less than three minutes to take the lead. Pavelski tipped in a shot from Kevin Labanc on the power play to give the Sharks the lead.

Then after Jones denied Damon Severson from in close at one end, Dylan DeMelo sent a long pass that Hansen chased down and then beat Schneider on a breakaway for his first goal since March 30, 2017.

NOTES: DeMelo has 10 assists this month. ... San Jose D Brenden Dillon has a five-game point streak. ... Devils F Miles Wood (upper body) was scratched and Jesper Bratt played in his place.


Devils: Visit Pittsburgh on Friday.

Sharks: Host Vegas on Thursday.