Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after he scored the first of two goals in the second period against the New York Rangers at SAP Center on October 8, 2013 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Guess who may have just booked a ticket for Sochi?
The Czech Republic's Olympic roster won't be finalized for several months, but San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl's four-goal performance Tuesday night raised more than a few eyebrows among Team Czech Republic's coaching staff.
Not only did the 19-year-old sniper score four goals against the Rangers, he did it with style and flair. Please tell me you saw goal No. 4 against Marty Biron. Here it is if you missed it:
Not bad for a rookie, eh?
It takes a very confident hockey player to pull off a move like that during a shootout situation, let alone at full speed during game action. Some might call it cocky. But Sharks coach Todd McLellan thinks otherwise.
"He's a passionate young man, and I'm not even sure if he realizes where he is," McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News. "He's innocent out there."
That performance gave Hertl six goals and seven points in his first three NHL games while playing on San Jose's first line with Big Joe Thornton and the bearded Brent Burns.
There are already comparisons being made between Hertl and fellow Czech mate Jaromir Jagr (see ridiculous pictures here). Something like this only adds to the mystique. Back in Jagr's 1990-91 rookie season as a member of the Penguins, he could do no wrong in the eyes of Pittsburgh fans. He was a teenager who spoke little English but loved Kit Kats, blue jeans and mullets. In other words, innocent.
The 2014 Olympics are almost assuredly Jagr's last. Could we possibly see a passing of the torch in Sochi if both are healthy and on the same Olympic squad? Team Czech may not have been able to write a better script.
Stumbling Out of the Gate
While things may be looking up for the Czechs, this week didn't start out so well for several members of Team USA.
First, one of the team's assistant coaches, Peter Laviolette, was fired as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, who have phallen phrom grace phaster than grease out of a Philly cheesesteak.
You can't blame Laviolette all that much, really. The front office gave him a doozy of a team to work with. With so many questions between the pipes and on the blue line, the team signed Ray Emery, Mark Streit and Vinny Lecavalier(?!?). Hard to get happy about those moves if you're a Flyers fan.
Laviolette is out of NHL work, but he now has plenty of time to scout potential Team USA hopefuls as well as opponents for U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma.
Here's a tip for Laviolette and Bylsma: Whatever you do, do not (I repeat, DO NOT) watch tape of Jonathan Quick's performance Monday night against the Rangers. That's because Quick, who many feel will get the nod as Team USA's starting goaltender in Sochi, let in an absolute brutal goal from about 160 feet.
I'll show you the video evidence, but I also have to include the following disclaimer, per the fine folks on the NBC legal team:
WARNING: This video could cause panic attacks and nausea among Team USA management and USA Hockey fans everywhere.
OK, sorry we had to relive that moment.
All kidding aside, the goal was brutal. But it's doubtful that Bylsma is really worried about Quick after that embarrassing mistake. Quick is known to be a slow starter each season. And really, how many times do you think he'd wander out of the crease, accidentally let his goal stick slip out of his hand and then angle his right pad juuuuust at the proper degree to divert a slow-gliding puck into his own net?
If you answered "Just once, I hope," you're probably right. Book it now: Jonathan Quick will be in net in Team USA's first game in Sochi. Sorry Ryan Miller. Past Olympic glory is in the past. It's no longer Miller Time.
Captain America Returns
What's that you say? You want to hear about some good news regarding Team USA? OK, OK. It's not all bad. Rangers captain Ryan Callahan laced up the skates for his first NHL game of the season Monday night after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.
He came out flying in the game against the Kings (you know, the one that included the never-to-be-mentioned again own goal by Quick), nailing defenseman Robyn Regehr with a bruising shoulder check on his first shift.
There was yet another Team USA scare in the second period when Callahan collided with Anze Kopitar. The butt-end of Kopitar's stick caught Callahan in the mouth. He missed a few shifts while getting some repairs off ice, but thankfully he returned in the third period. That's just Captain America being Captain America. Wouldn't be a Callahan story without and injury and some drama.
Tweet of the Week
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Kings' own account following Monday's trainwreck by Quick:
#LAKings now trail 3-1. No comment.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) October 8, 2013