Saturday, March 18, 2017

Schmaltz Presented With A Bigger Role Due To Anisimov Injury

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

Nick Schmaltz entered this year, his rookie year, in hopes to be a contributor with the Chicago Blackhawks.  Schmaltz was the Blackhawks 1st round pick (20th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.  He started the regular season with the big club for the first 26 games of the season.  In that time, he mustered just 4 points (1G 3A).  

Feeling like more work was needed to his game, the Blackhawks sent Schmaltz down to their AHL affiliate, Rockford Icehogs in December.  He spent just under a month there, where in 12 games, he contributed 9 points (6G 3A).

Schmaltz made his way back up to the Blackhawks in early January, and within little time, found himself on a line with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik.  That line became the hottest line in the NHL for a period of time earning Toews, player of the month honors for the month of February.

Since Schmaltz's return, the just turned 21 year old, in 23 games, has 16 points (5G 11A), and is a +7.  The chemistry that Toews had been looking for since the departure of Brandon Saad two years ago, looked to be finally found.

That is until Artem Anisimov went down in the first period of a game last Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens.  Schmaltz was dropped from Toews' line, and found himself centering a line between Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin...oh darn.  Schmaltz proved to have the primary assist on the game-winning goal that came from Panarin in the 4-2 victory.  

Schmaltz is a +2 with an assist in the two games thus far centering his new line.  He will now have the opportunity to do so for the next 3-4 weeks as Anisimov will be shelved with a lower body injury.

The Blackhawks have earned 30 out of a possible 36 points in their last 18 games as they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.  There is pressure, put on by the team themselves, to take the top honors in the Western Conference and their division, as they currently hold a 3 point advantage over the Minnesota Wild.  On January 31st, the Blackhawks trailed the Wild by 6 points while Minnesota had 3 games in hand on the Blackhawks.

Schmaltz has some heavy weight on his shoulders, but he has a couple of wing men that can help him greatly.  For Schmaltz, he probably didn't think this type of opportunity would be presented to himself at the beginning of the year, but now he is in the limelight to shine.  He seems up for the challenge as are the Blackhawks as they enter the last three weeks of the regular season.


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