Thomas Vanek has struggled for the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, and found himself skating on the fourth line at practice this morning, a day ahead of a crucial Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.
Vanek was expected to be a dominant force for the Habs in this postseason, but aside from a pair of big games against the Boston Bruins in round two, he has been a disappointment. Vanek stepped up in Game 6, a must win for the Habs against Boston and scored two goals, much like he did in a Game 2 loss to the Bruins.
However, his lackluster effort and lazy demeanor on the ice make Vanek a frustrating player for fans to watch. He has all the skills and abilities to be an offensive force for the Canadiens, but he has been a difference maker in a grand total of two games this playoff season.
Even if he was not a dominant offensive force, the least we should expect from Vanek is inconsistent bursts of offense. So far in the third round of the postseason, the big Austrian winger, who is playing out the string on a 7 year, 50 million dollar contract, has been non existent.
Playing on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk in Game 2, Vanek failed to register a shot on goal, and has just two in his last three games. With star goaltender Carey Price injured and out for the remainder of the series, Montreal needs every bit of offense that Vanek is capable of showing. Instead, they are receiving shotless games from a top six winger.
He may no longer be able to claim he is a top six winger, as he skated with Daniel Briere and Brandon Prust at practice today. The trio could be one of the most expensive fourth lines in the entire league at a combined cap hit of just over 13.5 million this season, though the New York Islanders, and Buffalo Sabres retained some of Vanek’s cap hit in trades this season.
It is a far fall for a player who rejected a 50 million dollar contract extension from Long Island earlier in the season. He is going to have to bounce back up if Montreal is going to come back from their 2-0 deficit to the Rangers and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.