Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle. In this feature, one of our Bolts will face off against an opposing player of the team the Lightning face next. We will see how the two match up against each other, their respective teams, and against the rest of the league.
In today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle, we put two wingers head-to-head. The Tampa Bay Lightning face the Buffalo Sabres in their third straight road game to start the season, so tonight’s game will be a test of stamina for the Lightning. All-Star left winger Thomas Vanek of the Sabres faces off with right winger Teddy Purcell tonight.
When you think of the Buffalo Sabres and the superstars they have on their team……well there are none. The closest thing to a superstar is Vanek and possibly goalie Ryan Miller. However, Vanek has shown the talent and promise over the past eight years of not only an all-star, but also an underrated player.
As a 22 year-old in the 2006-07 season, the rising star from Vienna, Austria played in all 82 of Buffalo’s games, scoring 43 goals with 41 assists. Vanek won the NHL Plus/Minus Award that year as well, having the highest plus/minus statistic (47) in the league. In 2009, Vanek was elected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, his only all-star game appearance so far in his career.
Thomas has shined when playing against the Bolts though. In 31 games playing against the Bolts, he has scored 23 times including three hat tricks. That’s right, I said THREE hat tricks with the most recent one coming April 5th, 2011.
He is an absolute scoring machine that our defense just can’t seem to shut down. To add on to those 23 goals, Vanek has assisted on thirteen goals scored against Tampa Bay. With Vanek being a co-captain and wearing the “C” during home games, there has got to be an higher sense of urgency to get the puck away from him as he has proven to be a huge scoring threat when playing against the Bolts.
Now it’s on to the man who will line up opposite from Vanek, Teddy P.
Since the Lightning acquired Purcell during the 2009-10 season from the L.A. Kings, he has been a consistent player for the Lightning. While players like Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos get more of the attention in Tampa, Purcell has pretty much flown under the radar as a scoring threat.
Purcell was tested out by coaches on many different line combinations until they found the best spot for him: bringing up the right wing next to former Lightning captain and center Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier and Purcell were a dominant scoring tandem, each having the ability to make brilliant passes as well as score goals.
With Purcell on the line with Vinny, he had eleven goals and 25 assists during the lockout-shortened season last year. Those may seem like a small stat-line when you compare it to other stars like Marty or Stammers but it is actually very productive. It shows the depth in goal scoring that the Lightning have to back up Marty and Stamkos when they are having a bad game or are being shut down.
Against the Sabres however, Purcell hasn’t had the best of luck. He has only scored one goal in fifteen games against Buffalo, with just seven assists. With the departure of Lecavalier, Purcell is now on a line with young stars Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat but also rotates with Tom Pyatt on another line that has new addition Valtteri Filppula at center and Alex Killorn on the left side. Purcell has the opportunity to continue playing at a high level and will be looking to help the Bolts in every way that he can.
Tonight should be an interesting game for the Bolts, coming in with momentum after their shootout win over reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Buffalo has a young team that has talent but not much of it is developed. Vanek and Steve Ott will bring their A-games for the Sabres and Ryan Miller will stand tall in net as he always does. However, I do not see a good ending for the Sabres in this game. The Bolts come in with too much veteran talent that Buffalo can’t match up to and the young stars like Killorn, Johnson, and Palat will push to excel in tonight’s game. Watch for a great game from both clubs and Go Bolts!