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Tomas Hertl has reason to be confident ahead of Game 6 to save Sharks’ season

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After a Game 5 loss that pushed the Sharks to the brink of elimination on Friday, San Jose forward Tomas Hertl made a guarantee.

“I believe we’ll come back and force a Game 7,” Hertl told reporters then (via The Mercury News).

Hertl clarified his statement on Saturday, telling the assembled media on Saturday that he wasn’t trying to pull a Mark Messier ahead of Sunday’s Game 6 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Messier, of course, guaranteed that his New York Rangers would stave off elimination and force a Game 7 against the New Jersey Devils in 1994.

Plenty of players have made similar postseason pledges, but none have done so as successfully as the legendary New York captain. He scored a hat-trick in said Game 6, a critical victory en route to the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup in a half-century.

Hertl has a long way to go before he’s worth mentioning alongside the Hall-of-Famer, other than their shared history of being Sharks for at least a few hours. If anyone wearing teal this postseason was most-qualified to properly channel the six-time Stanley Cup champion, though, perhaps it’s the 24-year-old.

He’s arguably been San Jose’s best player. Hertl’s first on the team with six playoff goals, and second with nine points. League-wide, he’s tied for 23rd and fifth in those respective categories. Five-on-five, only Jake Guentzel (eight) and Sidney Crosby (seven) have scored more goals than Hertl (five) in the playoffs.

Hertl’s capitalized on his five-on-five chances, but has also helped his team gain additional offensive opportunities. He’s drawn 10 penalties this postseason, including six in the second round against Vegas, and either mark is more than any other player in the playoffs, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Since 2008, there have been 102 instances of Sharks players playing at least 100, five-on-five minutes in the postseason. The rate at which Hertl has scored goals, produced primary points, generated expected goals, and drawn penalties this postseason ranks higher than just about anyone else matching that criteria, as the following data from Corsica Hockey shows.

5v5 G/60

2.83

1st

5v5 P1/60

2.83

1st

5v5 ixGF/60

1.15

2nd

5v5 PEND/60

3.4

5th

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said after the first round that Hertl still had “another level” to reach, and we’re starting to see it as the playoffs progress. Hertl may have walked back his Messier-like prediction, but his play through the first nine games of the postseason is enough to back up that kind of confidence.

If San Jose is going to force a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday, Hertl doesn’t need to be Messier. Playing the way he has all postseason may be enough.

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