Devin Setoguchi is in just his third NHL season, and still just 23 years old, but when it comes to the expectations on him as a top six forward for San Jose, there is no slack compared the names like Joe Thornton
, Patrick Marleau
and Joe Pavelski
. The bar is set high and Setoguchi is grasping it.
Setoguchi’s regular season numbers were down a little bit this season compared to his sophomore campaign as he registered 20 goals and 36 points in 70 games in 2009-10. Since the playoffs began though, Setoguchi seems to be right back on track with his second professional year as he has posted eight points in 11 games. Having scored five goals in those 11 games, he is a big part of the success of the Joe Pavelski
To those who see Setoguchi every day in practice, his playoff production is not a surprise. Maybe not from one end of the rink to the other, but when it comes to his first step, Setoguchi is as quick as anyone on the Sharks team.
“The first thing you mention is his speed,” said Blake. “He’s fast from the start. He takes the puck from the wall to the net.”
The old axiom in sports is that speed kills and when Setoguchi puts the jets on, he is a dangerous man.
“Because he skates so well he can do a lot,” said Blake. “Those guys are valuable because of their speed. They back defenders off, but they also get in on forecheck.”
Setoguchi’s speed and tenacity help create the opportunities he craves the most.
“He takes a lot of shots because he gets to open areas, he’s special in that way,” said Blake.
Setoguchi brings a little bit of everything to the Sharks emotionally. Still just 23, there is that joy visible at games and practices that can be hard to replicate when players get older. Yet, he seems to have taken the lessons offered from last season’s first round loss and brings an older outlook when it’s required.
“He should,” said Blake about Setoguchi still having a lot of fun. “Age dictates that. I think he understands more than he did last year the importance the playoffs have on your career. He’s been tremendous for us this year.”
Opportunities like the one the Sharks are looking at, sitting in the NHL’s final four, don’t come about every year and a reputation can be cemented that lasts a lifetime.
“If you can win a Stanley Cup, it stays with you your whole career,” said Blake. “The quicker you learn it, the better you will be.”
“It is a tough situation to be in, but as a player you always thrive on pressure,” said Manny Malhotra about being a young player who has expectations put on them. “That’s the reason we are all here. We want to be in pressure situations. I know he enjoys being put in that role and he puts a lot of pressure on himself to do well. He’s done a great job.”
Setoguchi knows he’s not going to score every game, but he’s found a way to make himself successful every game, even when the puck isn’t going in the net.
“Even when he’s not scoring he’s been very effective,” said Malhotra. “He’s making great defensive plays and is skating so well. He’s doing all the little things that make you successful. Scoring is the icing on the cake, but he’s playing the right way to be scoring goals.”
What Setoguchi does very well without the puck is throw his 200 pound frame like a battering ram when he is on the forecheck. It’s another sign of him doing whatever is necessary.
The Sharks will need everyone on board if they are going to topple the Blackhawks and that includes players like Setoguchi bringing their improved playoff game from last year.
The Sharks will host Chicago in Game 1 Sunday at NOON and the contest will be on NBC, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.