SAN JOSE-After being eliminated from a chance to win the division with a dreadful 5-2 loss to division rival Anaheim on Wednesday night, the San Jose Sharks were in need of a big shot in the arm.
On Friday night, they got two.
Rookie phenom Tomas Hertl returned to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 19 in what was an eventual 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche and fellow Czech countryman Martin Havlat also returned from a one game stint in the press box with a hat trick and a four point night.
Always looking to deflect credit, Havlat preferred to talk about how good his linemates are when asked after the game about the chemistry between himself and Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. He later acknowledged however that the trio had a pretty good run together last season.
If Havlat can earn the coaches trust enough to stay in the lineup, there is no question he plays his best hockey alongside Marleau and Couture. If the Sharks are fully healthy to start the playoffs, lines like the following would be pretty darn filthy.
Tomas Hertl—Joe Thornton—Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau—Logan Couture—Martin Havlat
Raffi Torres—Joe Pavelski—Tommy Wingels
Matt Nieto—Andrew Desjardins—James Sheppard
In his first game back, the Sharks coaches decided to play Hertl on the left wing of James Sheppard, with Tommy Wingels filling in on the opposite wing. As expected, this line spent the majority of their shifts defending in their own zone. However, the few times they were able to get the puck in the offensive end, Hertl was just like the Hertl we all remember from the first half of the season. The 20-year-old rookie bombed a slap shot on net on his first touch of the puck and made a number of deft stick lifts to create extra zone time, including a dynamite chance where he cut through the slot and hit the crossbar.
While getting the two points meant little to San Jose (except maybe home ice in a potential WCF series with Chicago) who gave their No. 1 defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic the night off, getting their confidence back before the playoffs was still of importance.
Even though the 5-1 score isn’t a very accurate description of how the game unfolded, the Sharks nonetheless played a great game overall and should do wonders for their confidence as a group. Colorado obviously wanted the game badly to try and win their division. Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy even pulled his netminder down three goals with around five minutes remaining. It’s not as if the Sharks ran rough shot over a slouch of a team (then again, that might have been more impressive given how bad San Jose has been against slouchy clubs this year, but I kid).
All in all, there was a lot to be excited about if you are a Sharks fan after this effort—a complete 180 degree feeling change after the loss in Anaheim on Wednesday. The only real downside is that they lost Scott Hannan to a head shot. McLellan said he would not play in the season finale tomorrow in Phoenix.
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