Thomas Vanek is producing Hart Trophy-type work for the Buffalo Sabres, yet his team remains hapless despite his surprising success.
The Austrian winger scored a goal and two assists to push his league-leading points total to 19 on Sunday, but the Sabres couldn’t find the scoreboard when he was off the ice. The Florida Panthers scraped out the win in regulation, topping Buffalo 4-3.
To give you an idea of how dependent the Sabres are on Vanek, chew on this: they’ve only scored eight goals this season without the 29-year-old forward collecting a point. He’s factored directly into about 70 percent of Buffalo’s 27 goals.
Despite boasting the clear points leader – no one else in the NHL has more than 16 – the Sabres rest at the bottom of the Northeast Division with seven points (3-5-1). Only Florida (six points), Philadelphia (six) and Washington (five) have fewer standings points in the East.
That’s troubling stuff, especially when you consider how difficult it will be for Vanek to approach his unexpected production for the remaining 40 games of this season.