Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Anisimov Earning His Feathers As A Chicago Blackhawk

When Stan Bowman traded away Brandon Saad two off-seasons ago, there were many upset fans.  Saad, a fan favorite for 2 of the last 3 Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championships, was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a move that brought Artem Anisimov and highly touted rookie, Marko Dano to the Hawks.  Saad, was due a hefty contract which the Hawks could not afford.  So Bowman traded him and got plenty in return instead of just losing him to free agency.

Marko Dano was traded a year later to the Winnipeg Jets as part of a short-term lease for soon-to-be-free-agent, Andrew Ladd.  Although that didn't pan out, , Anisimov, then 27, was the cog that Bowman had been looking for.

The Hawks had been in dire need of a second line center for quite a while.  When the Saad trade was complete, it took Bowman no time at all to sign Anisimov to a 5-year extension.  Many were not sure what they were getting with Anisimov other than a 6 year veteran who had somewhat underachieved since coming into the league.

Shortly after Anisimov was signed, another signing was made that proved Anisimov more valuable than his play on the ice.  KHL phenom, Artemi Panarin, referred to as the Russian Patrick Kane was signed.  Panarin, speaking very little Englsih, relied heavily on Anisimov as a translator.  With Anisimov's help during practices and in games, Panarin turned out to be the Calder Trophy winner for NHL Rookie of the Year honors.  Patrick Kane won the Art Ross Trophy for most points in the league, along with Hart Trophy for MVP of the league.  Who was the center of that line?  Artem Anisimov.

Last year, Anisimov scored 20 goals for just the 2nd time in his career.  His 42 points were 2 shy of a career high.  This year, through 30 games, Anisimov is on pace to shatter all personal records, as he already has 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points, .

Although Anisimov is a big center, winning faceoffs have proven to be a bit of a struggle at times.  Not all of which is his fault.  Wingers are a big part of winning faceoffs as well.  And although Panarin and Kane are two of the deadliest linemates in the league, they are not very big which tends to allow them to be pushed off pucks at the faceoff dot.

What Anisimov brings most desperately is something that the Blackhawks have not had since Dustin Byfulgien was on the team.  Then head coach, Denis Savard, had talked about "Commit to the Indian" because no one brought net presence to their game.  Willingness to take a puck off the inside of one's ankle to make a play.  This, Anisimov did no more than two weeks ago and hobbled off the ice.  Anisimov's size and presence can bring frustration to any goalie in the league.  Last year, Anisimov, although he may not have gotten a point on the play, screened goalies at least a half dozen times as either Kane or Panarin scored.

This year, Anisimov's game has turned into not only screening goalies, but staying in the dirty areas in front of the net to pick up the loose rebounds and getting those dirty goals.

As mentioned, Anisimov is in the first of his 5 year contract extension.  At what price?  A mere $4.5 million, which if he keeps these stats up, Bowman has made yet another steal of the century.  That saved money, will be needed to help try and retain Artemi Panarin, who is rumored to be seeking $5-$6 million per year on a long term contract.

In the meantime, Anisimov is proving his worth in gold on making the Blackhawks a favorite to bring home Lord Stanley's Cup again.  And if the Hawks do, they can no doubt attribute that to Anisimov.  Which means, Chicago would be ready to throw an Arty Party!



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