Tomas Hertl had better watch his back.
That’s the message Capitals head coach Adam Oates not-so-subtly sent to the Sharks rookie on Thursday, two days after Hertl lit the ice in San Jose on fire with four goals in just his third NHL game.
The 19-year-old capped off that historic night by sliding the puck between his legs before beating Rangers goalie Martin Biron on a breakaway, and Oates questioned whether Hertl truly understood the ramifications of pulling such a flashy move.
“I’m upset. I was just talking to [Washington general manager] George [McPhee], and he said all the kids do that nowadays, which I understand. But would he have done it on his first goal?” Oates told The Washington Post. “He hasn’t scored yet tonight and he gets a breakaway, is he going to do that on his breakaway? We’ll see.
“I think it was a little bit of a mood thing, which I’m sure they talked about, because they didn’t play him after that,” Oates continued. “I’m glad the coach did that because this league, it will bite you if you’re not sharp. Don’t disrespect the league. I’m sure it was a rookie mistake.”
Hertl did not see the ice after his fourth goal Tuesday night, remaining on the bench for the final 7:55 of San Jose’s 9-2 win. The game’s outcome was never in doubt — Hertl’s final tally was his team’s eighth of the night — but Sharks coach Todd McLellan‘s decision to hold the rookie out also prevented any Rangers bruisers from teaching him a lesson in garbage time.
“Great move, don’t get me wrong — it’s a shootout move or something, and it’s great,” Oates said. “I’m glad the way San Jose treated it. As long as he doesn’t disrespect the league. The league’s hard.”
Hertl may face some vigilante justice after his bit of showboating, but it won’t be delivered by Oates’ players anytime soon. The Sharks and Capitals do not meet for the first time until Jan. 14.