Sharks Swimming in Inconsistent Waters

Devin Setoguchi scored for the first time in 11 games but it wasn’t enough for the Sharks as the Anaheim Ducks skated away with a 3-2 overtime victory Tuesday night.

Setoguchi, the fourth year Shark winger, made a big splash in his second full season two years ago when he managed 31 goals and 65 points. Since then, Setoguchi has failed to match that production.

Last year, Setoguchi finished with just 36 points in 70 games and prior to Tuesday’s game in Anaheim had just one goal and two points in 12 games thus far this season. The drop in Setoguchi’s offensive production has led to a large support amongst the fans to trade the speedy right winger but at least for this season, he hasn’t had much help around him.

In fact, the entire second line has been fighting the puck all season. Prior to Tuesday’s loss, the trio had combined for just one five-on-five goal all season, that coming off the stick of Ryane Clowe back on Oct. 23.

While Clowe did put forth one of his better performances of the season against the Ducks, the Sharks need their second line as a group to find a scoring consistency.

Clowe did set up San Jose’s first goal of the game while the Sharks were in the midst of a line change. After regaining his own dump-in behind the Anaheim net, Clowe found Torrey Mitchell all alone in the slot and fed him a perfect pass which Mitchell quickly deposited through the five-hole of Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller.

However, Mitchell’s and Setoguchi’s goals were all the Sharks could muster as Hiller turned away 39 of 41 shots for the game allowing the Ducks to capitalize on their limited opportunities.

The Ducks tied the score at 1-1 midway through the first when Jason Blake tipped home a point shot from Toni Lydman and Shark killer Corey Perry back-handed a rebound past Antero Niittymaki as the Sharks were scrambling in the second period.

Heading into the third period, Anaheim held a 2-1 advantage despite being outshot 18-11 through 40 minutes.

San Jose would manage to tie the score when Setoguchi got off the schneid at the 9:05 mark of the third, but all the work put into the tying goal seemed to give the feel that this game would end up in Anaheim’s favor. Setoguchi’s goal came just moments after San Jose’s best power-play attempt of the night had once again been killed off by the Ducks.

The Sharks were swarming the Ducks net, but Hiller turned away shot after shot before Setoguchi got his own rebound and converted for the first time since the second game of the season.

Hiller, who was named the game’s first star, has a history of big games against the Sharks. Back in the 2008-09 quarterfinals, Hiller stopped 220 of 230 Sharks shots in the six game series which made for a ridiculous .956 save percentage. Therefore it is no surprise that Hiller seems comfortable whenever he plays the Sharks.

In the third period on Tuesday, Hiller turned away 19 of 20 shots as his Ducks were out-shot 20-6 but held on to force overtime. The Sharks dominated the Ducks in the shot column as they outshot them 41-20 in the contest (including overtime).

During the overtime posession, Pavelski had a great look in close on beautiful set up from Dany Heatley. But Pavelski, who usually looks to shoot right away, made a fore-hand/back-hand move and wasn’t able to get a quality shot away.

That miss opened the door for Lubomir Visnovsky’s point shot to find its way past Niittymaki through a screen with just over a half minute remaining to give the Ducks the victory.

The Sharks will now get Joe Thornton back on Thursday and his presence will especially boost a power-play that went 0-for-4 against Anaheim but general even strength scoring also has to improve. Even San Jose’s top guns haven’t been proficient in five-on-five scoring over the last few games so “Jumbo Joe’s” presence should certainly help.

It may only be mid-November but the Sharks now stand just 6-5-2 on the season, good enough for fourth in the Pacific division and 11th in the Western Conference.

San Jose’s defense and goaltending have been consistently holding their own over this recent stretch of games but the offense has been severely hot and cold. Therefore, if the Sharks are to get back to their normal dominant regular season selves, they must start burying their opportunities at a higher percentage. And if San Jose doesn’t start to roll of three and four game winning streaks in the very near future, you will probably see some significant line tweaking from Todd McLellan.

Also considering that the Sharks front office feels that they have a Stanley Cup caliber roster it wouldn’t be surprising if GM Doug Wilson made a significant trade even before the deadline. Right now, the Sharks are simply not playing up to their capabilities and Wilson isn’t shy to make a move if he feels his team needs a wake-up call.


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