Tomas Hertl made a guarantee and yet he really didn’t.
I mean, not in the realm of Joe Namath or Mark Messier. Not even in the manner of Paul the Psychic Octopus, although it would be interesting to see which mussel was eaten first — the one in the box with a picture of a shark or that of Chance.
I just know he wouldn’t eat one from a box with Gritty on it.
Hertl is San Jose’s talented forward who, after a Game 5 win over the Golden Knights in this best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal, was interviewed on the ice before an exhilarated crowd at SAP Center.
“It was just fun game, and now we know we have one more game and come back for Game 7,” said Hertl, his words blasted throughout the arena. “And I believe it, because we better team than them.”
Tomas Hertl, extremely happy child, guarantees a Game 7 pic.twitter.com/C1fBxfn9wn
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 19, 2019
Eh, pretty soft stuff.
If he pulled a Messier, it was beyond a poor man’s version.
Hertl is a Czech Republic native. The language barrier alone is reason enough to understand his wasn’t an overtly conceited assurance of winning Game 6 on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.
The guy looked happier than a kid on Christmas who awakes to a new bike, having just scored twice in the 5-2 win that extended his team’s season for at least one more game. I’m not even sure he knew what he was saying.
But he readdressed the comments Friday, telling reporters he never guaranteed a Game 6 win and was merely expressing a belief in his team and its ability to force a Game 7 on Tuesday in San Jose.
And yet we live in crazy times, so anything close to trash talking in a playoff series is going to play wide across social media.
I just wish Hertl hadn’t walked back his comments.
After all, what was he supposed to say?
When totally healthy and offering its complete roster, San Jose is the better team. We’ve seen it this series. It doesn’t mean the Sharks have played better overall and absolutely doesn’t mean the Knights, leading 3-2, won’t close things out Sunday. They actually should, given how well they play at home and how poorly San Jose goalie Martin Jones does here.
But take away the names Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, and most advantages on paper between the teams wear teal.
Which doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs.
How did having more talent work out for Tampa Bay and Calgary?
Perceived or actual trash talk is something for crazy and delusional fans — you haven’t seen any of those with the Knights, have you? (lol) — to tweet about, and I’m guessing those who coordinate the pregame show at T-Mobile might include the Hertl cuts from that postgame chat on the ice.
Maybe they should also create a video of The Muffin Man firing baked goods instead of pucks past Jones down on Drury Lane.
But however wacky things get, don’t expect the suddenly businesslike Knights to pay much attention.
Words can bite
“A lot of people made a big deal out of the (Hertl) comments, but at the same time, we’re one win away from advancing and are focused only on that,” Knights defenseman Shea Theodore said. “We didn’t play our best in Game 5, and (Hertl) played great and has confidence in his group like we have in ours. It’s one guy talking after a do-or-die situation. If they lose (Sunday), they’re out. We’ll be ready.”
Words can come back to bite guys. After media availability Saturday, Mark Stone of the Knights asked specifically to speak to just two reporters — Adam Hill of the Review-Journal and Justin Emerson of the Las Vegas Sun — to clarify a comment he made regarding Ottawa, where he played the first eight years of his career.
Mark Stone talked with a few reporters today to clarify his Thursday comment about Ottawa. Wanted to make it clear he was only trying to express how happy he is playing playoff hockey in Las Vegas. Doesnt have anything negative to say about his time in Ottawa or the organization
— Adam Hill (@AdamHillLVRJ) April 20, 2019
Mostly, this sort of stuff means nothing to those intimately involved with a playoff run. The Knights didn’t close out one postseason series at home last year en route to a Stanley Cup Final appearance, so the opportunity to do so now sort of ranks top-of-Everest high above Tomas Hertl’s thoughts on things.
“Who cares what he says?” Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “He was the best player out there in (Game 5), and now we’re going to try and shut him down. I’m sure there was a lot of emotion for him, but I don’t care what he says. We’re focused on closing it out.”
It’s all soft.
Drop the puck and let’s go.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.