Whenever the Sabres are in Boston, I always think of Thomas Vanek
’s five-point night in January of 2013.
This past Saturday, I wasn’t alone.
And from now on, I won’t just think of Vanek.
Mike Weber and Tyler Ennis are the only two current Sabres that played in both of the aforementioned games, and only Ennis (even though Weber had points in each game) had a hand in both Vanek’s and Jack Eichel’s artistry. (And here are the boxscores to prove it…)
Vanek's 5-Point Game
Eichel's 4-Point Game
I sat down with Ennis this week to break down some of these game highlights, and reflect on what it’s like to play with Jack, and to have played with Vanek.
“Thomas doing Thomas type things.”
In a line, that summed up how Ennis viewed the dominant night at the Garden nearly three years ago.
But you need to re-watch.
“Too easy,” said Ennis. “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen at that little shot pass. He just gives it a little baby tap on the ice, and he knows he’s going to get position on whoever, and he just slices it. The little taps let [Ehrhoff] know, so just put it there.”
“Oh this is the pass, right?” Ennis knowingly asked.
“He never got credit for passing really, because he was just so good at scoring. Like how does he know that I’m there? He didn’t look at me once! Right on my tape!”
And then…”The Vanek Show!”
Hat Trick. Five points:
Five seconds of laughter followed from Ennis, before he offered up this:
“I think you have to respect his option to pass, but you don’t expect anyone to do this. It’s crazy. Awesome patience.”
Fast forward to Saturday, December 26, 2015.
Two goals. Two assists. Jack Eichel, first star in Boston.
“I think the most impressive thing to me was that he did that where he grew up, his first game back, with all his friends and family there. That’s pressure. It’s not easy to do,” Ennis stressed.
“My first game in Edmonton I think I was minus-1 and played awful. Jack gets four points and wins us the game. His natural ability is fun to watch and be a part of.”
While it may not have been as individually spectacular as Vanek’s five-pointer, considering where Eichel is at – 19 years old and just now 36 games into his NHL career, and where the team is at – average age 26.5 and still learning about themselves on the fly, moments like this do resonate with Ennis.
“That’s confidence in a young kid, to have the game on his line if it doesn’t go in, we’re in a tough spot," he said, “but he’s confident and he buried it and we won and he earned it.”
So, what’s it like to play with both?
“It’s fun!” Ennis laughs. “You know that if you give them pucks, something’s going to happen. I like to be creative myself, but I think I’m smart enough to know that if you give someone that talented the puck, something’s going to happen, and it usually does, and Boston was a good example.
“The key to playing with both is to make sure you’re confident too. I remember my first few games I played with Thomas, I was nervous about always trying to get him the puck and getting frustrated if I gave him a bad pass because you want to play well in those situations.
“You want to get these guys the puck but at the same time you’ve got to play your game and have fun, and build relationships and build confidence.”
“I still talk to him [Vanek]. He was a fun guy to learn from,” Ennis said. “Whether it’s a slapshot on a penalty shot or a pull-up, sauce-pass back door, you just kind of see things. And you know, I can still learn from a guy like Jack too. Things that he does with the puck. You always have to be curious, and you can always get better. They are both incredible players.”
The holiday season can be such a roller coaster of emotions for all of us, as we try to balance work, family-time, travel, health, you name it.
I really think our latest installment of Beyond Blue and Gold captured a lot of “life” moments, many of them through the eyes and words of Sabres Captain Brian Gionta.
And I think this comment via Twitter helped validate how we – on the production side – felt about the finished product.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
Anyone else ready to start the New Year’s diet a little early?
Well, I know one person who isn’t.
In fact, this guy trains for this time of year by doing this… That was at 3:06 p.m., November 29.
This was exactly five hours later. Same restaurant. Same menu item.
I can’t make this stuff up.
IN THE COMMUNITY
Speaking of good food, and great times, the first week of 2016 ends with a rockin’ Sabres Road Crew party in the Windy City!
Hope to see you there!
#DUFFALO THREE STARS
For the period ending December 29, 2015
1. J.P. Fitzgerald’s
3. Duff’s (Orchard Park)