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Semin, Vanek go Head-to-Head

by John McGourty /

Tale of the tape

left wing
HT: 6' 2"
WT: 205
'08-09 Stats:

HT: 6' 2"
WT: 208
'08-09 Stats:

Alexander Semin or Thomas Vanek?

If we had asked you this question a month ago, or if you just looked at the goal-scoring totals this week, you might say there isn't much to choose from, with the Sabres' Vanek's 18 goals through 24 games leading the League.

But with a quarter of the 2008-09 season already behind us, the nod in this head-to-head battle may well go to Semin, the Washington Capitals' right wing, based on his all-round game.

Basically, Vanek is a finisher who has scored 43 percent of his NHL goals on power plays. He is at his best re-directing pucks and scoring off rebounds. He goes into the dirty areas and gets important goals.

Semin is more of an all-round player. He can carry the puck and set up teammates, he has excellent vision on the ice and a fluid skating style.

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When I first got this assignment, I talked to another member of the staff and said Vanek is a streaky scorer -- he can go quite a few games without hitting the score sheet, then get goals in bunches. The other writer said the same is true of Semin.

As of Tuesday, Vanek tops the NHL in goals with 18 in 24 games, while Semin has 13 goals, tying him with a host of players for fourth.

But Semin has a big edge in assists, leading Vanek by a 14-5 count.  In average ice time per game, Semin's 19:11 is a hair more than Vanek's 18:43.

Semin leads the NHL with a plus-17 rating and is tied for second with three game-winning goals. Vanek has two game-winning goals and is a plus-1.

Vanek leads Semin in two categories. He has eight power-play goals to Semin's one, and Vanek has two shorthanded goals to Semin's none.

Semin is scoring on 26 percent of his shots while Vanek has scored on 18.9 percent. Vanek is having a very good season in that regard, while Semin is having an outstanding season.

There is one area where Vanek clearly is better -- he is more mature. Semin has had a few dustups along the way, including being dismissed from the Russian national team at the 2007 World Championships for showing up late. He recently popped off that he thinks Sidney Crosby is over-hyped.

Vanek, on the other hand, fits in quietly, has a pleasant, open way about him and wouldn't say "gum" if he had a mouthful.

On balance, Semin is the better all-round player, but you'd be happy to have Vanek's scoring ability on your team, too.
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