It feels like years, but it's barely been a month since Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk went in between his legs for a highlight-reel goal against the Sharks back on Feb. 10. It was so spectacular, even the San Jose broadcasters couldn't help but be in awe. Of course, it wasn't the first time they had seen something like that.
It would have been difficult for Sharks forward Tomas Hertl to get off to a better start to his NHL career than he did as a rookie during the 2013-14 season. In the first game of the season, he got the primary assist on San Jose's first goal of the campaign. Two nights later, he notched the first two goals of his career. Three points in your first two games? Pretty good.
He wasn't done. Hertl more than doubled his career point total in the next game alone.
Not one. Not two. Not three. Four. Four goals in his third career NHL game. And Hertl saved the best for last.
Already with a hat-trick, Hertl received a pass at the New York Rangers' blue line and entered the offensive zone at a high rate of speed. Without slowing down, he deftly maneuvered the puck in between his legs just before roofing it into the top of the net to give San Jose an 8-2 lead in the third period. Rangers backup goaltender Martin Biron didn't know what hit him.
With his fourth goal of the night, Hertl became the youngest NHL player (19 years, 330 days old) to record a four-goal game since Jimmy Carson (19 years, 254 days old) did it during the 1987-88 season. Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews have since accomplished the feat at a younger age.
Still, not bad for a 19-year-old, right?
Hertl has scored 126 additional goals since his coming-out-party that night against the Rangers, but never once has he tallied four in a single game. Multiple knee surgeries have slowed him down, but they've never diminished the personality of a player who once famously said, "Fun must be always."
As we all know, this is not a fun time right now. The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is being felt all around the globe, including the sports world. With the NHL season indefinitely paused, Hertl and the Sharks don't have any upcoming games in which they can generate joy for their fans. So, we're going to make it work another way.
At 8 p.m. tonight, Hertl's four-goal game will be shown in its entirety on NBC Sports California. The Sharks ultimately won 9-2, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Sharks fans to jump out of their seats.
In these trying and unprecedented times, there isn't a better Sharks player to focus on than Hertl. We might not be able to have fun "always" right now, but at the very least, we can tonight.