Devin Setoguchi celebrates Hockey Weekend in America with first career hat trick, 4-0 win over Colorado Avalanche continues torrid Western Conference pace

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, February 20, 2011 - Save & Share - One Comment

Antti Niemi makes a save with his face mask for his third shutout in his last 8 games

Devin Setoguchi scores first career hat trick against Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suits up hours after trade from St Louis Blues

The San Jose Sharks continued their blistering post-ASG pace with a 4-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at HP Pavilion. Devin Setoguchi scored his first career hat trick in 246 games as a Shark, Ryane Clowe added San Jose’s third power play goal over the last 2 games after an 0-12 drought, and goaltender Antti Niemi recorded his third shutout in his last 8 games.

In 10 February contests the Sharks have put up an 8-2 record, recorded 16 of 20 possible points, and earned the slimmest of margins in the tight Western Conference stretch run. “You have to win every game,” right wing Devin Setoguchi said. “We lost 2 or 3 games in the last (15), and we were 2 points out of the 9th spot. You got to keep winning, you have to keep playing your best hockey night in and night out.”

Setoguchi’s offensive explosion has been bubbling just under the surface for some time. When he wasn’t lighting up down the right wing against Nashville, he was carving into the offensive zone and using his speed on the backcheck against Washington. The Avalanche gave #16 a little too much room early in the first period, and he made them pay. After defenseman Jason Demers carried the puck out of the zone and fought off a stick check by Ryan O’Reilly, Setoguchi took a quick pass at the line and split the defense of Johnson and Wilson. After faking a backhand-to-forehand move at full speed, Setoguchi pulled it hard to his backhand and lifted the puck over a sprawled Peter Budaj.

Demers also sparked the second scoring sequence on the power play with a point-to-point pass to newly acquired defenseman Ian White. White was acquired one day earlier in a pair of San Jose Sharks trades with the Carolina Hurricanes. White got all of the puck on his shot, but he got all of the puck about 4 feet wide left of the net and Budaj. The rebound caromed behind the net to Setoguchi on the doorstep, and he buried it for his 14th of the season. He would add a third goal late in the game blowing past Colin Wilson and tucking it 5-hole on Budaj.

“It feels pretty good,” Setoguchi said. “I think I have had 12 or 13 two-goal games. It always sits in the back of your mind.” He mentioned that despite the offensive outburst, he needs to produce consistently to help his team down the stretch. “One game doesn’t make you a good player or a good goal scorer, you have to keep doing it.” The Sharks right winger also noted how the addition of White will impact the special teams. “He has a great shot, I benefited from that tonight. It makes our second power play unit a little more lethal from the back end.”

Mentioned by general manager Doug Wilson on the addition of Ian White was adding another puck moving, right shooting defenseman to the blueline. With the left shooting Marc-Edouard Vlasic sidelined with an upper body injury suffered against Washington, all three defensive pairs for San Jose had a left-right shooting combination: Boyle(R)-Murray(L), White(R)-Wallin(L), Demers(R)- Huskins(L). Justin Braun, a talented offensive-defenseman recently called up Worcester, also shoots from the right side.

The Sharks took firm control of the game in the first period, scoring 3 goals and outshooting Colorado 17-8. The Avalanche looked shellshocked, but this was not your father’s Colorado side, this was not even Monday’s Colorado lineup. Colorado Avalanche GM Greg Sherman made the largest blockbuster move to date in the leadup to the February 28th NHL trade deadline. Power forward Chris Stewart, Calder contending defenseman Kevn Shattenkirk and a 2011 second round draft pick were traded late Friday night to conference rival St. Louis for 2006 first overall draft pick Erik Johnson, veteran forward Jay McClement and a conditional first round pick in either 2011 or 2012. One day earlier they cut bait with last year’s surprise and seemingly franchise goaltender Craig Anderson. Anderson was traded for backup Brian Elliot from the Ottawa Senators.

Anderson set Colorado Avalanche franchise marks last season for games played (71) and minutes (4,235), and led the NHL in shots faced (2,233) and saves (2047) while registering a 38-25-7 record. This year an early injury may have effected his mechanices, and on and off ice problems contributed to a disappoiting 13-15-3 record, 3.28GAA, .900SV%. Anderson’s play covered a lot of holes in front of him last year, and in the playoffs he nearly pushed the Sharks to the brink in the first round with several inspired performances. Now in the last 48 hours, the one-time franchise goalie, the Avalanche’s best power forward, and the most promising offensive-defenseman are all gone.

Denver Post columnist Terry Frei notes the changes are extraordinarily risky. “It’s Erik Johnson for Chris Stewart with a bunch of other stuff — bodies and draft choices — tossed in,” Frei wrote in the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning. “This is a longshot, but possible: Chris Stewart could become to the Avalanche what Cam Neely was to the Vancouver Canucks, the power forward his original team gave up on much too soon. I’m not saying Chris Stewart is Cam Neely; I’m saying he can be.”

Yes and no. Stewart is a very talented power forward, capable of playing the body and driving the net hard. While Stewart, whose inspirational story was featured alongside Kings forward Wayne Simmonds last year in The Hockey News, can influence games, Cam Neely could dominate them. Neely was a force offensively, with his fists, or with a game altering hit. If you did not account for Neely when he was on, the Bruins would roll over you. Stewart is not at that point now, and that nasty take-no-prisoners element is several steps below where it would need to be down the line.

In 6-foot-4, 232-pound defenseman Erik Johnson, the Colorado Avalanche are taking a risk. He has plateaued somewhat after the freak 2008 golf cart/knee injury, but he is a true #1 that is capable of soldifying the porous backend. He hasn’t put everything together on either end of the ice yet, but he offers the Avs a chance at being a foundation player for the longterm. A player a team can structure their defence around. If they can make a play for a top goaltender in the offseason, a sagging Denver hockey market could see a much quicker turnaround.

On Saturday night, Johnson looked a little weary. A few hours after being traded, he was off the plane in rainy San Jose and registering a team high 26:44 on the ice. He registered a game high 4:37 of power play time, blocked two shots, and was turned inside out on Setoguchi’s breakaway goal. The more suprising player was center Jay McClement. The 6-year vet has never put up a 30 goal season. He was described as a “plugger” by Frei, and slow footed. Saturday night he was one of the Avs with the most jump. He laid out a Shark’s defenseman behind the net with a solid forecheck in the first, and was one of the main instigators in the second period for the Avs.

The Avalanche outshot San Jose 11-4 in the second period, generated two power plays, and twice they crashed into Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi at full speed. On one collision Niemi was able to make an extended pad save on Ryan Stoa. The other forced defenseman Dan Boyle to go over the top of Niemi, clipping him in the back of the head with his skate. Niemi stood firm, making one save with the cage of his facemask, and directing one Avalanche forward to the side as he slid towards the net.

“Score-wise, to put 4 up on the board and still play well defensively is a nice reward,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. “It still doesn’t feel like you really got away with one. They had chances. They worked hard, they kept coming.” McLellan also noted that his team is playing well top to bottom, and that will be needed to have any success down the stretch. “It is going to take 23 guys every night,” McLellan said. “I think early in the year we tried to rely on certain individuals to carry the team. When they weren’t going well, we didn’t get the push from anyone underneath them. Right now every body seems to be finding a way. That is the only we we have a chance to be successful, that is really the only way any team has a chance to be successful in this league.”

The key additions of forwards Kyle Wellwood and Ben Eager added a dose of offensive creativity and grit to the forward corps. The lines have not firmly settled down, but on any given night line 1 through 4 can come up with a big play. Ian White and Justin Braun give the Sharks a similar depth on the blueline. While Justin Braun may be the defenseman of the future, Ian White now gives all 3 defensive pairs the ability to make an impact on any given night.

“We have an unbelievable group of guys here, lots of speed, lots of skill,” Ian White said of joining the San jose Sharks. He also noted some of the differences between the Eastern and Western Conferences. “Obviously, you look at the standings and everything is tighter over here,” White said. “Bigger and faster, a little more of a grind I think playing over here.” While Ian White earned 18:08 of ice time and 1 assist, Sharks defensive player of the game may have been Douglas Murray. Colorado Avalanche forwards Brandon Yip and Mark Oliver made a sustained push in the third period, and Murray put his body between both, then tracked down Olliver across the defensive zone to offer a retaliatory check. The Sharks did not box out enough in the 2nd, and their goaltender took a pounding as a result. Murray put his near 250 pound frame between opponents and the goaltender in the 3rd, an intelligent and necessary adjustment.

At times the game was a foregone conclusion on Saturday night, but there is a lesson that can be learned from the Colorado Avalanche teams of years past. When the Avalanche dominated San Jose in the last 90′s, early 00′s, they overcame tight defensive Sharks sides with big games from their big players. Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg had an uncanny ability to score a critical goal when their team needed it the most. Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau have been those players for San Jose in past playoff performances. Can a Setoguchi, Thornton or Heatley deliver for San Jose when the playoffs are on the line in 2011?

The 23-man roster as it is can set the table, but someone is going to need to bring home the bacon.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

[Update] Avalanche hits rebuilding mode with 4-player deal – Denver Post.

“Good enough” won’t be good enough for Erik Johnson in the next phase of his NHL career, which started with his debut with the Avalanche on Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.

“To be a dominant player in this league — that’s what I want to be,” said the 6-foot-4, 215-pound defenseman, acquired early Saturday morning in a blockbuster trade with the St. Louis Blues. “I haven’t played my best this year, but I have a lot more to give.”

[Update2] Sharks now practicing Monday instead of Sunday — and a look back at that 4-0 victory over Colorado – David Pollak’s Working the Corners blog.

[Update3] Sharks crush Avalanche behind Setoguchi hat-trick, Niemi shutout – Fear the Fin.

[Update4] Numbers Game Avs: Blues and Avs with shocking blockbuster – Scott Cullen for TSN.

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One Response to “Devin Setoguchi celebrates Hockey Weekend in America with first career hat trick, 4-0 win over Colorado Avalanche continues torrid Western Conference pace”

Pingback from Game Day Notes: vs. San Jose « On the Wings
Time February 22, 2011 at 1:58 PM

[...] Devin Setoguchi took enough time off from shamelessly diving to score a hattrick against the Avs. No doubt he’ll try to find a mix of goal scoring and taking sniper fire [...]