The Sharks also welcomed newcomer Ian White, and the Avalanche welcomed newcomers of their own. And that’s about where the comparisons stop for two teams headed in totally opposite directions.
The Sharks climbed to within one point of the Pacific Division lead, having struggled for most of the season. Excitement was high with Colorado due to pay a visit, and with the Sharks having just dispatched the Capitals for a season-high fourth consecutive home win.
With the Sharks playing their best hockey to date, GM Doug Wilson traded a 2012 second-round draft pick for Carolina defenseman Ian White.
This was the first move of the trade deadline for the Sharks, and fans hoping for immediate dividends were not disappointed.
As noted in our weekly power rankings, the Avalanche had sunk to the depths of the Western Conference after a promising start. The Avs haven’t won a game since Jan. 24 against the Blues and posted a 0-8-1 record.
The last time they were this bad, Marc Crawford was behind the bench, Owen Nolan was still on the roster and they were called the Quebec Nordiques.
Colorado GM Greg Sherman did not stay his hand and worked quickly, as he completed a flurry of trades before facing the Sharks.
Colorado swapped goaltenders by sending Craig Anderson to Ottawa for Brian Elliott and acquired Eric Johnson and Jay McClement from the Blues.
This Colorado club looked to be down and out but the Sharks did not take them lightly and started the game very strong.
Brian Elliott did not dress for his new team; Peter Budaj got the nod with John Grahame as the Colorado backup.
Ian White flew into San Jose the previous afternoon, and despite missing the morning skate, he played very well.
Much as the Sharks did last year in the playoffs, they pretty much imposed their will against the Avalanche in the early going.
Long stretches hemmed in their own zone, Sharks defensemen playing very aggressively, and dominating the boards were the theme in the opening stanza.
Ian White pushed the play and looked like he wanted to validate his acquisition in the first 10 minutes. He played an aggressive game all night, and was relatively strong in his own zone.
He jumped up in the play quite a few times, and during a stretch in the first period helped keep the Avs in their zone for over two minutes straight.
With Joslin moved, Justin Braun gets recalled; the Sharks may see what he can bring since earlier in the year.
Setoguchi split the Avalanche defenders at 6:29 and deked Budaj before lifting the backhand high stick side and home for the 1-0 lead.
Demers moved the puck out nicely and deliver a terrific tape-to-tape pass that sprung Setoguchi through the Colorado defenders.
At 13:40 of the first, Ryane O’Byrne took a holding minor leading to first Sharks power play of the game. The new-look Sharks powerplay looked a little uneven at times, but all things considered the unit looked capable of being dominant.
Ian White logged 18 minutes and got extensive power play time, and played a huge role in the second goal. Ian While blasted a shot from the left side point slightly left of Budaj and miss the net.
The rebound off the board came to the opposite side of the net, and Setoguchi corralled the puck and potted his second of the night.
The Sharks went on the power play again at 15:40 of the first period when Ryane O’Bryne flipped the puck out of play in his own zone.
Ryane Clowe added the advantage at 16:38 of the first on a broken play while entering the Colorado zone. Logan Couture was a catalyst on the play with his speed from a terrific pass out of trouble from Joe Thornton.
The Avalanche came out flat, and while they responded well in the end, they couldn't solve Niemi. Just looked like losing two big parts of their team in Shattenkirk and Stewart has taken quite a bit out of this team.
Outshot 17-8, the Avalanche were be ready to play the second period and gave the Sharks quite a run for most of the period. The Sharks had a difficult time as the Avalanche tightened the play through the neutral zone.
Dan Boyle took a couple of big hits midway through the second period, and he only took nine shifts in the third period.
The second period was much to forget as a Shark fan, looking eerily familiar to early in the series last year. Ryan Stoa skated through the entire Sharks defense in the second period, only to be completely robbed by Niemi.
The Sharks looked a lot like a team wanting to blow the lead in the second period, but they rebounded in the third.
Setoguchi picked up his first NHL hat trick at 18:38 of the third period, capping the night with the Sharks' fifth home win in a row.
Devin stripped Josh Wilson of the puck high in the Avalanche zone and snapped the breakaway wrister past Budaj.
The hats would rain down for quite some time for Setoguchi, who's had it coming for quite some time now.
Devin Setoguchi – Just short of a month ago, fans would have eagerly traded Setoguchi to the lowest bidder for any kind of help on the blueline. He was underachieving and coming off of his early injury, just could not catch a break.
My how three weeks can change a fan’s perspective of a player, but Devin’s recent turnaround started long before that.
Setoguchi has been one of the harder working Sharks since November and could easily have five more goals if not for a few unlucky breaks.
If Setoguchi can keep building on this performance, and along with Couture the depth might be scary when the Big Three wakes up. The model of efficiency, Setoguchi set a career high in just 13 minutes of ice time.
Antti Niemi – Although he was not challenged much, he was again superb when he needed to be, coming up with large saves at key times.
Niemi would make huge stops against the Colorado power play midway through the first period and made it look easy.
A sure sign of his confidence right now, and that’s nothing but a great sign for the Sharks.
Screened, one timers, or point-blank chances? You name it, Niemi stopped it.
Best thing about his performance? Niemi answered the call despite long stretches of inactivity. The man is dialed in, and the Sharks would be wise to ride him as long as he carries them.
Ian White – He played a very aggressive game to start, some may say a tad too aggressive, but you can’t blame him.
Walking into a jam-packed Shark Tank, his emotions from being traded twice in the same season had to run high. White played in the right side even strength and logged just under two minutes of power-play time.
He moved the puck out of the Sharks zone efficiently, helped keep the puck in the attacking zone, and launched a few rockets from the point.
It’s just one game, but as a Shark fan you can’t help but be encouraged by Ian White’s showing in his first game.
What didn’t work :
Scott Nichol – He had a rough game last night, or Ben Eager is making Nichol press too hard. The slew foot on McLeod in the corner was just an undisciplined play.
Nichol wildly missed a check and hit the boards awkwardly on the Eager penalty in the first and leave the ice. He also went winless in the faceoff circle, which is normally a steady trait of his game.
Dany Heatley – Although he was awarded the game winner in the last game, he’s still ice cold and not playing well. He’s slumping or going through a long funk, because he’s just not the same player he flashed early in the season.
Next Up :
With the win, the Sharks improve to 14-10-3 at home this season and built on their momentum headed to the postseason. Niemi recorded 23 saves for the shutout, marking the first time in franchise history the Sharks would record a shutout and hat trick.
Best of all, the scoring is coming from everywhere, which is a great sign with the playoffs right around the corner.
The win puts the Sharks into fourth place in the Western Conference, and keeps pace with the Coyotes in the Pacific. The Coyotes travel to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday.
The Sharks travel to take on the Red Wings who last beat the Minnesota Wild in a tightly played contest, 2-0 in OT. With a 37-16-6, mark the Red Wings are playing well after a heavy run of injuries early in the season.
The Red Wings have matched a season-high four-game winning streak and are starting to get healthy.
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