Everything’s going San Jose’s way in the final weeks of the regular season. The Sharks have won a franchise record 10 straight, lead the Pacific Division and have also won eight in a row away from HP Pavilion.
Sharks fans know some of the reasons for the winning ways: solid goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov, a defense that doesn’t allow a lot of shots and the play of the team’s No. 1 line of Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and Joe Thornton
But don’t forget San Jose’s No. 2 line of Patrick Marleau
and Joe Pavelski
and rookie Devin Setoguchi.
Opponents sure know about them. This trio has scored six of San Jose’s last seven game-winning goals.
One unique characteristic of this line is having two centers: Marleau and Pavelski. Marleau said having two centers “helps on faceoffs. We can take the draws on our strong side.”
Setoguchi, the right wing, has enjoyed being on this line since he returned from Worcester on Feb. 28.
“Since I’ve been called back up,” he said, “I’ve been able to get the passes to ‘Patty’ and with two great players we’ve been able to get some good chemistry going.”
Setoguchi has benefited from playing with Marleau. A prime example came on March 3 against Montreal. Marleau skated down the left wing after taking a pass from Setoguchi and scored the game’s first goal just 56 seconds into the contest.
“When he’s flying you just give him the puck and you go to the net,” Setoguchi said of Marleau, who’s arguably one of the team’s fastest skaters. “With those skills, he can do a lot of things. He’s the key to our line and the key to getting speed and getting chances.”
“Patty has been playing great and that’s a big part,” Pavelski said. “’Seto’ was called back up and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. Everybody’s chipping in every night.”
Pavelski has also played a big role in the line’s success. He’s scored seven points in his last eight games, is fourth on San Jose is goals (16) and seventh in points (29).
“’Pavs’ is a smart player,” Setoguchi said. “He’s always on the puck and has a knack for scoring goals. He always gets one or two and works as hard as he can every time he’s out there.”
Marleau said Pavelski is “always going to the right places and is really smart. He’s strong on the puck and never gives up on a play.”
But there’s more to Pavelski’s game. Like another Joe who always performed in the clutch for the San Francisco 49ers during their Super Bowl years, Pavelski has developed a Montana-like knack for scoring in the shootout.
Pavelski has converted on nine of his 12 shootout attempts this season for a 75 percent success rate. His efforts in the clutch are just one reason why the Sharks have a club record 10-game winning streak.
“He seems to score every time. He’s got a lot of confidence and a really good shot,” Marleau said.
“We’ve won a few shootouts here on this winning streak, so it’s good,” Pavelski said. “There have been some big shots from everybody. We’ve scored a couple goals and Nabby has made a couple big saves.”
Pavelski wouldn’t talk about his favorite move and shot to take in the shootout, but he did briefly talk about his approach. “You just have to keep your mind open,” he said, “make the best shot and see what happens.”