Sharks

Sharks' Tomas Hertl's hockey sense driving force in career-best season

Sharks' Tomas Hertl's hockey sense driving force in career-best season

SAN JOSE – Tomas Hertl has scored some pretty impressive goals during his 2018-2019 campaign.

He danced through the Anaheim Ducks defense on opening night, and capped off a hat-trick with an OT-winner against the Washington Capitals in January. But, his marker against the Montreal Canadiens earlier this month was extra special.

It marked the first time in his career he scored 30 goals in a single season.

“I’m pretty excited about it because I’ve been more of a passer than a shooter, but lately the goals have been coming,” Hertl said with his signature grin back on March 7, when he reached the milestone in front of the Sharks' home crowd at SAP Center. “Some lucky ones. But sure it’s a good season for me and I’m happy for that.”

While Hertl was already an established member of San Jose's offensive arsenal before this season started, he's taken his game to another level and stayed healthy. The 25-year-old also successfully moved to the center position halfway through the season, where he has evolved into a point-per-game player. 

In 66 games, the Czech native has registered a career-high 66 points (31 goals, 32 assists) and a plus-10 rating. NBC Sports California analyst Jamie Baker thinks the career year is a credit to Hertl's hockey IQ. 

"He doesn't just make great moves with the stick," the 10-year NHL veteran said in the first entry of his "Baker's Breakdown" video series. "It's identifying the situation on the ice, using his hockey sense."

[RELATED: How Karlsson's, Subban's first seasons in Western Conference stack up]

Baker also pointed out that Hertl has used his smarts to his advantage at even strength, and on the power play. As a result, the 25-year-old is the only Shark this season to score at least 10 goals on the power play and at even strength. 

In other words, Hertl is growing into the dominant player the Sharks envisioned when they drafted him in the first round in 2012. With San Jose pushing for the Western Conference's top seed, it couldn't come at a better time. 

After beating Vegas, Sharks can't suffer emotional letdown vs. Avalanche

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USATSI

After beating Vegas, Sharks can't suffer emotional letdown vs. Avalanche

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks and Avalanche enter their second-round series of the NHL playoffs on very different pages. San Jose will be just three days removed from their Game 7 overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Avs haven't played since booting the Calgary Flames from the playoffs on April 19. 

When asked if there was an advantage to not having time to get rusty, Sharks’ coach Peter DeBoer tried to suppress a laugh. 

“If you’re asking me if I’d rather have a week off, I’ll take the week off,” he told NBC Sports California with a smile.

Granted, San Jose is dealing with multiple injuries sustained during their contentious first-round bout with the Golden Knights. But more than anything, DeBoer wants his team to be able to keep their intensity high after a come-from-behind series win over Vegas. Extracurriculars, off-ice chatter, and back-to-back games going extra long can really zap the energy out of a team, and San Jose has to be ready to bounce back from that. 

“I’m more worried about our emotional level than our physical,” DeBoer admitted. “You’re fighting for your life for three games in a row, that taxes you emotionally. So we’ve got to get our emotional levels back up when we come out on the ice on Friday night.”

There is one advantage San Jose has over their next opponent, however: getting to start the series in their own building.

“It’s nice to not be traveling today to Colorado,” DeBoer said. “It’s nice, especially after a seven-game series, to not have to travel.”

Defenseman Brenden Dillon agreed. “I think any time you get to play at home and you don’t have to travel three or four hours, different time zones, it’s going to play to our advantage. Especially after a big series like that, a physical series where guys are banged up. Any time you’re able to sleep in your own bed I think is a positive.”

Dillon and the rest of the Sharks’ defensemen have a tall task ahead of them in shutting down Colorado’s speedy offense, which did quite a bit of damage against the Flames in their first-round series. Top-line center Nathan MacKinnon and second-line winger Mikko Rantanen led the charge with a combined 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) against Calgary, while Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar finished his first NHL playoff series with two points (one goal, one assist) and a plus-four. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Pavelski unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avs]

Much like shutting down Vegas’ Mark Stone line, San Jose will have to solve the MacKinnon combo if they’re going to be successful. 

“We’ve got to be aware of them,” DeBoer said, explaining that facing the Avs' offense in the playoffs will be different than facing them during the regular season. “The regular season you throw out the window this time of year. We watched them against Calgary and what they did to them against a really good d-corps. We know what we’re dealing with and that’s going to be the challenge of the series.”

Sharks' Joe Pavelski day-to-day but unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avalanche

Sharks' Joe Pavelski day-to-day but unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avalanche

SAN JOSE – Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer is classifying Joe Pavelski as day-to-day after the captain sustained a scary injury during San Jose's Game 7 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.

Pavelski left Game 7 at the 9:13 mark of the third period after getting cross-checked off a faceoff by Cody Eakin and falling to the ice and hitting his head. No. 8 was bleeding profusely and had to be helped off the ice by a few of his teammates with a towel being held to his head. DeBoer wouldn’t specify exactly what Pavelski’s ailment was, but said the top-line forward was “feeling the effects” of the injury and likely won’t be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Sharks' second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche.

“It could’ve been worse, you could’ve been dealing with a fractured skull,” DeBoer told the media after Thursday’s morning skate. “Thankfully, we weren’t.”

Pavelski did not take the ice for practice Thursday, although the press was told he was in the building.

Teammates Melker Karlsson and Tim Heed were also missing from practice Thursday morning. Joonas Donskoi, who missed Game 7 against the Knights with an unspecified injury, skated in a non-contact orange sweater early Thursday morning but left the ice before practice got underway. Micheal Haley returned to practice for the first time since sustaining an injury during Game 3 against the Knights.

When questioned about the status of players missing from practice, DeBoer chalked it up to the team being banged-up just like every other team still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.

“Like anybody this time of year, we have a lot of game-time decisions,” DeBoer said.

[RELATED: NHL apologizes to Vegas for mistake on major penalty call]

The Sharks will open up their second-round series against the Avalanche at SAP Center on Friday.