GOAL OF THE YEAR: QUARTERFINAL #3
Thomas Vanek squares off with Derek Roy in the third quarterfinal match-up.
#3: THOMAS VANEK VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS
When he’s on his game, there may be no tougher player in the NHL to knock off the puck than Sabres winger Thomas Vanek. The 28-year-old Austrian put his puck possession skills to the test in the second period of Buffalo’s game against the Florida Panthers on October 29. Buffalo had struggled to get any offense going all night long, as they trailed the Panthers 1-0 late in the second period. Then Vanek took over. He picked up the puck at the Florida blueline, and navigated his way down the right side. He protected the puck nicely as he wheeled around Brian Campbell, leaving goaltender Jose Theodore flatfooted and out of position at the same time. Sensing the scoring opportunity in front of him, Vanek swung around the goal and stuffed a wraparound into the net just out of the reach of Florida’s Shawn Matthias. It was Vanek’s eighth goal in Buffalo’s first 10 games. He finished the year with 26 goals, his seventh straight season of scoring 25 or more goals for the Sabres.
#6: DEREK ROY VS. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Derek Roy has always been a clutch performer for the Buffalo Sabres. Look no further than the 28 game-winning goals he had scored in his first seven seasons with the club. Hampered by injuries this season, Roy slumped mightily and only had one game winner heading into a crucial late-season matchup with Toronto on April 3 at First Niagara Center. Adding to Roy’s frustrations, he’d only scored twice in the previous 20 games. But Roy would light the lamp twice on this night, with the second tally being his biggest of the year. The Sabres had rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits in the third period to send the game into overtime. Dion Phaneuf took a delay of game penalty just 1:52 into the extra period for shooting the puck over the glass, putting Buffalo on the power play. Roy played catch with Tyler Ennis at the top of the slot before sending it to his left to Jason Pominville. The captain made a quick pass down low to Thomas Vanek, but his shot was blocked, sending the rebound into the open slot. Roy jumped in and quickly a fired wrist shot past Ben Scrivens that kept Buffalo’s slim playoff hopes alive for yet another day.