and deservedly so.
Vanek presently leads the league in points with 23, goals with 11 and is tied for third in assists with 12. His 2.09 points per game also lead the league.
He's also pulling his linemates along as well. Winger Jason Pominville is at 1.17 ppg while center Cody Hodgson is at a ppg.
Good thing for the team he and his linemates are hot. Without them they'd undoubtedly be much worse than their pedestrian 5-6-1 record.
After scoring two goals in the third period against Montreal to tie the game--the second with 1.9 seconds left--and burying a shootout goal, The Hockey News gave him props. And he gives credit to his return to Austria during the lockout for his success.
From the article; "Spending five weeks at home, I got to see how big the game had grown. I went back and every rink was sold out," he said. "And it just kind of made me realize how fun this game could be and how many people are following it. I think that's the biggest lesson I got taught."
Well, that's one player on the team that's "having fun." Although one would think that losing at the rate they were, 1-6-1 before the Montreal win, would be a bit of a drag.
Vanek keeps it all in perspective, "Sometimes, when you're in the tough times, missing the playoffs, I think you kind of forget," he said. "And that's what made me realize over there that you've got to work hard, but at the same time enjoy it, because before you know it, your ride might be over."
The 29 yr. old winger has never looked more comfortable on the ice. He's never looked faster, his shots have never been truer (over 25%) and the game seems to have slowed down for him like never before.
During last nights game at the Islanders, Vanek jumped on an opportunity to strip John Tavares of the puck in the offensive zone. After snatching it he curled towards the net and uncorked a lethal wrister that clanged off of the post.
He's banking pucks off the boards to himself on the rush, setting up team mates, deflecting shots in front of the net and showing some nifty, patient stickwork in-close while lifting the puck over a sprawling goaltender.
It's all clicking for him. But, will it last?
Yeah, he's been known for slumps before, but one of the big things that he has going for him is some excellent chemistry with Pominville. Maybe bigger than that, and why he may not go into a prolonged slump, is the player that's centering their line--Cody Hodgson.
Unlike his predecessor Derek Roy, Hodgson is playing off of those two, kinda like what a winger on the Sedin-twins line does out in Vancouver. Just work off of those two and always be prepared. Hosgson is an extremely gifted center with excellent on-ice vision who's a wizard with the puck. And it seems as if he doesn't need to be center-stage all the time.
At 22 yrs. old he still has a lot to learn and is still making mistakes, but he's got a good handle on his linemates and what they like to do.
It's been a tough road for the team this season so far and Cam Charron of Yahoo's Puck Daddy looks at Vanek's start as a big surprise considering the troubles the team is enduing on the ice as well as the huge post-honeymoon questions off the ice.
One thing he doesn't question is Vanek and his prolific scoring. "[Vanek's] not just scoring snack goals out there, feeding on defensive complacency of leading teams," Charron writes, "He scored two late third period goals the other night against Montreal, including one on a scramble with two seconds on the clock, to tie the game and send it to a shootout. He scored this excellent dagger goal against Boston last week to complete his hat-trick."
Tonight's a big challenge for the club as they face a well rested Boston Bruins club who certainly will have a chip on their shoulder after Buffalo pounded them at home.
So far this season nothing's fazed Vanek, can't see it happening tonight either. He loves playing against Boston. His 28 goals and 26 assists in 46 games vs. the B's are the most vs. any opponent he's faced.