The 2018-19 NHL season was, quite possibly, the healthiest campaign in Tomas Hertl’s professional career. He only missed a couple of contests early in the regular season after sustaining a head injury during the Sharks’ matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Now, the Czech forward is out of the lineup again with what is suspected to be a head injury. But this isn’t the beginning of the regular season. It’s Game 6 of the Western Conference final and San Jose is facing elimination.
As much as the Sharks praise their roster’s depth, there’s no denying that there are big shoes to fill with No. 48 sidelined.
Since returning to the lineup from that injury back at the start of the season, Hertl successfully moved to center one of Team Teal’s most productive lines of the regular season and ended the year with 74 points (35 goals, 39 assists) in 77 games played.
Throughout the course of the successful season, No. 48 pointed to being healthy as a big part of his success, especially with all the responsibility he began to carry.
“If you play a lot of minutes, you have to be ready,” he said back in November. “You have to be 100 percent.”
That was, of course, before Hertl then went on to become an integral part of San Jose’s postseason run, posting 15 points (10 goals, 5 assists) through 19 playoff games. While Hertl only has one goal through five games against St. Louis, his work in the faceoff circle and as a big physical presence for the Sharks cannot go unnoticed.
Hertl also is a player who takes it upon himself to step up when his teammates are hurt. In the seven-game stretch late in the regular season when the Sharks were missing both Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson from the lineup, Hertl posted seven points (4 goals, 3 assists). When Pavelski missed the first six games of the Sharks’ second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche, Hertl posted four points (2 goals, 2 assists) in addition to winning 82 faceoffs.
With Hertl officially out of the lineup for Game 6 in addition to Karlsson – and potentially Pavelski – San Jose’s depth will undoubtedly face its biggest test of the playoffs yet. The Sharks have not been without all three players at any point during the regular season or playoffs, which will put added pressure on San Jose’s entire roster.
How the Sharks respond to the heavy St. Louis lineup without a player like Hertl in their offensive arsenal could make or break their chances of pushing this series to a Game 7.