Hertl: 'I like the hits'
Tomas Hertl finished with an assist, two shots on goal, another three attempts blocked, and two hits. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
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SAN JOSE – After his successful preseason and training camp in which he earned a place on a top scoring line, it was not all that astonishing to see Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl cause a neutral zone turnover leading to Brent Burns’ second period goal on Thursday night against Vancouver. That score, in which Hertl had the primary assist, was the Sharks’ first of the season and first of four unanswered goals in a 4-1 win.
What was a bit more eye popping was what Hertl did in the final minute of the second period. After chipping the puck into the offensive zone, he and Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev chased towards it in the corner, and Hertl threw the biggest hit of the game when he plastered the Vancouver blueliner into the boards.
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“I like [to] hit,” the six-foot-two, 210-pound Hertl said after the game.
In 16 minutes and 14 seconds of ice time (including more than four minutes of power play time), Hertl finished with an assist, two shots on goal, another three attempts blocked, and two hits. It was a successful debut for the 19-year-old any way you look at it.
“Tomas Hertl played a lot of minutes against some very good players,” Todd McLellan said. “He had power play minutes and did a very good job.”
The Sharks’ captain was particularly complimentary of his linemate after the game.
“They said he was big, they said he was fast, that he had a good shot. But until you see it yourself, you don’t know. I think he has all the attributes of being a perennial All-Star,” Thornton said.
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Communication has been a bit of an obstacle for his teammates and the coaching staff, but the line was probably the Sharks’ best even-strength line against Vancouver, particularly in the first period. It didn’t appear to be an obstacle, as Hertl, Thornton and Burns all seemed to be speaking the same on-ice language after being together for about the entire duration of training camp.
Burns said: "He's a great player. He's really smart. He's big, fast, he's great with the puck. It's always interesting when you're talking with him. You never really know what's going to come out of that mouth. He plays a lot older than he is.”
“He’s not like he’s 18 years old – he’s 19, so he has a year under his belt,” Thornton joked.
“We’re three big bodies and we protect the puck well. We all skate good, and we all feel comfortable out there together.”
For at least one night, it showed.