San Jose coach Todd McLellan likes to describe Devin Setoguchi's season as one of three stages.

Stage 1 was dismal. Setoguchi had two points in the Sharks' first 12 games. Two and half months into the season, the right wing, a regular on the top two lines, had registered only two goals in 22 games. He went two months, December and January, without an assist.

"Stage 1, I don't think anyone was happy, including Devin," McLellan said. "Stage 2, there was some growth and resurgence. And Stage 3 is the stage he's at, or getting to, now.

"He's had to elevate it a little more. He's not only scored big goals for us, which is important, but he's provided us with a lot of speed and energy on that line."

Going into the Western Conference finals, which open today at Vancouver, "that line" is the Sharks' top line, centered by captain Joe Thornton and with Patrick Marleau on the left wing. Setoguchi, 24, is playing with two of San Jose's big-gun veterans, and his six goals have him tied for the team postseason lead with another standout young Sharks forward, center Logan Couture. Two of Setoguchi's goals have come on power plays, including the Sharks' first goal in their Game 7 win over Detroit on Thursday in the second round.

Setoguchi has five goals in the past five postseason games, including a hat trick in Game 3 against the Red Wings. Those results came despite usually being matched up against Detroit's top line.

So what the heck was going on in Stage 1?

"If I knew, the stage wouldn't have been that long," McLellan said.

Setoguchi isn't sure why he struggled early, either. He's shown some streakiness in previous seasons, but nothing as pronounced as that early slump. But the Sharks, as a team, weren't exactly lighting it up, either: After dropping six in a row in early January, the team was 21-19-5.