The Chicago Blackhawks have slowly been picking up the pace of their game as November continues on. In the beginning of the month, as well as the end of October, the team struggled to put together wins. The lack of cohesion on the ice, as well as little effort on special teams, became a huge downfall for the Hawks and they ended up falling to teams like the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche. However, they’ve won three of their last four games, including a close win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. Though it has been a team effort, certain players have stood out in helping their team achieve their very best and one of those men has been forward Artem Anisimov.
Anisimov had a strong season last year, thanks in part to the high level of production from his then-linemates Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane. In 64 games, he tallied 22 goals and 23 assists. The goals matched a career-high that he had achieved back in the 2013-14 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, while his assists were only three below his career-high of 26, which he earned in the 2010-11 season with the New York Rangers.
This year, however, there were changes for Anisimov. With Artemi Panarin traded off to the Blue Jackets, the trio of Kane, Anisimov, and Panarin would no longer take the ice together. Instead, the Blackhawks had to figure out some new combinations. When they switched the lines around, it became apparent that part of Anisimov’s great plays had come from the previous line being in existence. Without Panarin and Kane by his side, Anisimov looked much slower and made several more mistakes that ended up being costly to the team. He found himself playing with players like Patrick Sharp, Ryan Hartman, and John Hayden while on the third line, with linemates occasionally rotating to meet Coach Joel Quenneville’s plans. It was not a stable situation and it showed in Anisimov’s level of play whenever he took the ice.
Flash-forward to this month of November and Anisimov has seemed to become a new player. He has five goals in his past three games, including his first ever career hat trick against the Rangers on November 15th. Two of his five goals were also power play goals, which the Blackhawks have been having difficulty with. There’s no doubt that those types of goals have given major boosts of momentum to the team, especially when they are in close situations, such as they were against the Penguins last night.
Anisimov’s new level of play seems to come, in part, from his new line stability. He has been put back together with Kane and joined by Nick Schmaltz. Earlier in the season, there were debates of whether Schmaltz or Anisimov would win the fight to be on the second line, but they have been able to find the chemistry that allows them to play together. All three seem to benefit each other and motivate themselves when on the ice. Anisimov leads the team in goals, Kane leads the team in points and assists, and Schmaltz is within the top five players for assists. Anisimov’s goals have also come thanks to his willingness to get in front of the net. He knows how to take away the goalie’s eyes and cause a commotion in front of the crease, which is just what the Blackhawks need. Despite racking up high shot totals, the team had trouble finding the back of the net before, but with Anisimov in front, the goals have come slightly more frequently.
Hopefully, Anisimov can keep his hot streak going and help his teammates find their own energy out on the ice. After dropping so many games already, the Hawks need to start picking up the points this month. With Anisimov playing the way he is, they certainly have a much better chance than they did when no one was really producing much, but it needs to be an overall team effort at the end of the day to bring home the wins.