THN.com Blog: Cheechoo, Vanek rediscover scoring ways

Author:
Publish date:
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

It’s tough to keep a good goal-scorer down for long.

But that’s precisely where former Rocket Richard Trophy winner Jonathan Cheechoo and restricted free agent poster boy Thomas Vanek were for a good portion of the season.

Cheechoo, who led all snipers in the first season of post-lockout hockey, has struggled to regain that elite status. He also fought through a groin injury that sidelined him for seven games in December.

But as the Sharks continue to head upstream in the West, the Cheechoo train is starting to chug. The 27-year-old winger has 17 goals in his last 26 games, which accounts for all but five of the goals he has this year.

Buffalo fans are a little sensitive to talk of San Jose’s success these days, so let’s also not lose sight of the fact the Sabres’ $10-million dollar man is starting to prove some of his worth.

While he’s cooled of late, Vanek still has 14 tallies in his last 19 starts. That puts him on pace for 33 goals this year; 10 short of the 43 he scored last year and about 20 less than you’d hope for from a guy who makes enough money to single-handedly revive Buffalo’s economy with one night of frivolous spending.

Still, the surge is clearly welcome.

There’s a tendency to expect robot-like performance from players, but they’re not immune to changes in work environment.

Pressure. Nagging injuries. Departed co-workers. Adjusting to new co-workers. These things affect even the most talented goal-scorers.

And like the rest of us, it’s their job to adapt and persevere, which is just what Vanek and Cheechoo appear to be doing.

THE WICKED WEST

Barring a situation where Claude Lemieux comes out of retirement to join the Colorado Avalanche for a first round series versus Detroit, the tilt between seed Nos. 4 and 5 in the West is bound to be the most intense opening-round matchup.

Based on the seeding system that ranks division winners 1-2-3, two very good teams from the Pacific Division are going to meet in Round 1. And, if my math is correct, one of them is going to lose.

The way I see it, a team I’d bet on to take down any Eastern Conference club in a seven-game series – be it Anaheim, San Jose or Dallas – will be drowning its sorrows at the 19th hole before May.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

TOP HEADLINES

USATSI_15726983_168393428_lowres
Play

J.T. Miller Shows Courage On and Off the Ice for the Canucks

Miller's bold decision to publicly question the NHL and NHLPA about Vancouver's return-to-play conditions forced the league to reset and further consider the welfare of the players.

Schmidt_60 (3) (1)
Play

Can Team USA Get Back to Gold?

The American world under-18 squad has officially been unveiled and built-in chemistry will be key.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Play

Juuse Saros' Hot Play is Bearing the Fruit of Patience

It took a few years for Saros to cement himself as an NHL starting goalie. But not only is he thriving in Nashville, he's among the league's top netminders this season.