It was, the Sharks to a man insisted, not a guarantee. Just an excited kid with less than a mastery of English. Don’t believe them. If Tomas Hertl didn’t expect everyone to latch on to his comments ahead of a win-or-go-home Game 6 against the Golden Knights, he still knew what he was saying. And he still scored the shorthanded winner in double-OT to make his guarantee, well, guaranteed.
“I know we have one more game and come back for Game 7,” Hertl had said after the Sharks won Game 5 to stay alive. “I believe it. We’re a better team than them.”
There will indeed be a Game 7 in San Jose Tuesday night, but it’s Hertl’s second statement that’s pure bulletin-board material and had his coach and teammates trying to walk it back a little. “I know the word ‘guarantee’ was thrown out there, but his English is a little broken,” Logan Couture said. Pete DeBoer added, “There was no guarantee made. It was an emotional guy with English as his second language, you know, just professing his confidence in our group. He did that and he delivered.”
Hertl delivered with a little bit of NHL history. Past the midway point of the second overtime, 31 seconds after Barclay Goodrow was sent off for slashing, Hertl had the puck and a decision to make. He was winded from his PK shift and said he considered dumping the puck in and getting off the ice, but he had a little bit of space and took a lottery ticket of a wrister. He became the first player ever to win a multiple-overtime playoff game with a shorthanded goal.
Yes, the goal was soft as hell, and yes, Marc-Andre Fleury would very much like that one back. But sometimes the drunk fans in the upper bowl yelling SHOOOOOOT are onto something. “If you don’t try you never know,” said Hertl the philosopher.
Fleury’s going to need to be better in Game 7, the first in Golden Knights history, though certainly not his first. He’ll at least need to be better than Martin Jones, who has stopped 88 of 91 shots in the last two games, an acute turnaround from his struggles earlier in the series. But all of it goes out the window for a Game 7.
Tomas, do you have any guarantees for Game 7?
“I guarantee we will try our best,” joked Hertl. “Game 7 is the most fun game you can play in the NHL.” A regular Nostradamus.