GOAL OF THE YEAR: SEMI-FINALS #1
Tyler Ennis & Thomas Vanek square off in the first semi-final match-up of the 'Goal of the Year' tournament.
#1: TYLER ENNIS VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Billy Idol may have been dancing with himself back in the 80’s, but Tyler Ennis was passing to himself on February 19 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sabres were up 5-2 on the Pens late in the third period of their only afternoon home game of the season. Buffalo had already torched starter Brent Johnson for three goals in the first 22 minutes, and were now facing Marc-Andre Fleury in the Pittsburgh net. Ville Leino worked the puck along the half wall, and he fed it to Zack Kassian in the corner. Kassian skated towards the net and spotted Ennis in the slot. Ennis used a nifty spin move to get open, and was right next to Pittsburgh’s Paul Martin when he took the pass from Kassian. He then flipped the puck over a sliding Martin, taking his own pass and depositing the puck into the wide open net past a helpless Fleury to close out the scoring in a 6-2 Sabres victory.
#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.