Unless you’ve been stranded at sea for the past week, you’ve undoubtedly seen San Jose Shark’s forward Tomas Hertl’s between-the-legs breakaway goal against the New York Rangers earlier this week. Even more incredible, the goal was his fourth of the night in only a little over 11 minutes of ice time, and his sixth goal in two games.
As expected, the 19-year-old’s goal made headlines and is easily an early candidate for goal of the year.
However, Hertl has also experienced some backlash from the effort – namely from NHL Hall of Famer and current Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates.
“I’m upset. I was just talking to (Caps GM George McPhee) and he said all the kids do that nowadays, which I understand. But would he have done it on his first goal?” Oates said when asked about the goal.
“I think it was a little bit of a mood thing, which I’m sure they talked about, because they didn’t play him after that. I’m glad the coach did that because this league, it will bite you if you’re not sharp. Don’t disrespect the league. I’m sure it was a rookie mistake.”
After scoring the goal, Hertl didn’t play for the remaining seven minutes of the game, preventing any Rangers players from seeking retribution for the goal during the remaining minutes of San Jose’s 9-2 win.
While others have weighed in on Hertl’s goal, really the only thing disrespectful to the league was the play of the Rangers that night.
The New York Rangers are a professional hockey team, and a damn good one at that. Hertl shouldn’t be blamed for getting open along the left wing, beating a veteran defenseman in Michael Del Zotto, and then doing nothing more than scoring a goal. Since when is scoring a goal a disrespectful rookie mistake?
And after scoring a goal that beautiful, it would have been easy for Hertl to channel his inner Happy Gilmore and do the Bull Dance around the entire rink and twice in front of the Rangers bench. He would have been justified in that, too, with the way the Rangers played. But Hertl simply held his arms up in triumph after scoring and embraced his teammates. No showboating, no trash talking, just a pure goal celebration.
Oh, but it was the way he scored the goal. He didn’t have to go between the legs.
It beat the goalie, didn’t it? The guy is paid to play hockey and score goals, which he did matter-of-factly with his four-goal performance that night. It doesn’t matter what league you play in or what age you are, when you are on a breakaway, especially one the Rangers practically gave to him, you score. You don’t dilly dally around or shoot a weak wrist shot, you go for the jugular and put the puck in the net. Boo hoo that Hertl went between the legs, the real shame is that the Rangers’ defense was sloppy enough to give him the opportunity to do so.
New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider weighed in on the topic, stating that it doesn’t matter how players shoot the puck at him, as a goalie, it’s his job to stop the shot.
The NHL has a way of policing itself, and it’s likely that Hertl could have a few big hits coming his way in the near future. In fact, Alexander Edler has already been suspended for three games for a high hit to the head against Hertl when the Sharks played the Canucks last night. He’ll take his bumps along the way, and he’ll be a better player for it. But don’t think for a second that he should regret that goal against the Rangers.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton probable summed it up best in a post-game interview when he butt into a media interview with Patrick Marleau after Marleau was asked if Hertl has been showboating:
“Shut up, have you ever played the game?” Thornton said.
“I’d have my c— out if I scored four goals.”
Hopefully Joe Thornton never has a four-goal night.