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by Rob Crean / Buffalo Sabres
It should come as no surprise that Thomas Vanek is leading the Buffalo Sabres in goals at the All-Star break.  The six-year NHL veteran has led the team in goal scoring every year since 2006-07, averaging just under 37 goals per season during that span.  This year, Vanek is well on his way to once again lead Buffalo in tallies with 18 goals in 49 games.

While he’s on pace to approach his career average for goals this season, Vanek has also displayed a knack for coming up big at key times.  Of his 18 goals, nine have come either with the game tied or the Sabres trailing by one and seven have come in the third period or overtime.  In addition, Buffalo is 10-3-2 in games in which Vanek scores a goal.

The 27-year-old forward has also notched three game-winning goals, scored on all four of his shootout attempts and played a key role in four of the five overtime goals the Sabres have scored this season by netting one, assisting on two and creating a turnover that led to yet another overtime tally.

Vanek’s biggest moments have come in overtime this season, beginning with what has probably been the Sabres’ goal of the year to this point back on Nov. 13 against the Washington Capitals.  Take a look below at Vanek’s dazzling individual effort:

Just two nights later, Buffalo was locked into another overtime contest with Vancouver.  The four-on-four action in the extra session was played at a frantic pace, and one subtle play by Vanek led to a chance for Tyler Myers to walk in alone on Canucks goalie Cory Schneider and win the game.  Vanek disturbed the Vancouver defenseman enough to cause a crucial turnover, and though he was not credited with a point, he certainly played a major role in the goal.

Vanek was at it again on Jan. 18 against Montreal when he received the puck in tight from Tyler Ennis and feathered a perfect pass in front to Jason Pominville for the game-winning goal in the extra frame.

Most recently, Vanek helped Buffalo head into the All-Star break with an overtime win at Ottawa.  He outworked Chris Phillips in the corner, allowing Pominville to dig out the puck and find a streaking Shaone Morrisonn for the clinching goal.

As for Vanek’s four shootout goals, his blast against Ottawa goaltender Brian Elliot gave the Sabres gave the Sabres their first-ever 1-0 shootout victory back on Dec. 4.

For much of the season, Vanek’s points have come in bunches.  He set a career-high with a seven-game point streak in November, collecting 10 points (4-6-10) in that span.  He recently put together a string of four consecutive multi-point games during which the Sabres went 3-1-0, giving him a total of 13 multi-point games. 

Aside from two short scoreless streaks at the beginning of the season and a seven-game scoreless streak in December, Vanek has been able to produce consistently.  When he has gone quiet on the scoresheet, he’s had a tendency to rebound with productive stretches, such as when he followed up the seven-game scoreless streak by recording 14 points over the next nine outings.  One of the more encouraging signs has been his rising assist total.  His 23 assists at the break put him on pace for his highest total since the 2006-07 campaign when he finished with 41 helpers.

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