Artem Anisimov was at his usual spot in front of the net on Wednesday night, scoring a goal that was as necessary for his confidence as it was to help the Blackhawks’ lagging power play.
In his first two seasons with the Blackhawks Anisimov’s net-front presence, and the production that came from it, was fairly regular – 20 goals in 2015-16 and 22 in 2016-17. But Anisimov didn’t look the same and wasn’t as effective to start this season – at least until lately. Now coming off three games in which he’s had a goal in each, Anisimov is back to being the effective center the Blackhawks need him to be.
“I feel much better because I have more puck and I make more plays and feel confident,” Anisimov said following Friday’s practice.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Anisimov has been, “way, way better” in his last three games.
“He’s been way more effective having the puck more, carrying the puck he has more pace to his game,” he said. “He did a great job on the net-front goal the other day by being in the right spot, but certainly his game and the pace has really picked up. It’s such a big improvement in our team game when you add his presence in the middle of the ice.”
Some of it was adjusting to new line mates. Centering Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane the past two seasons, Anisimov would throw the puck to Kane, get to the net, let Kane and Panarin work their magic and be ready for any rebounds or tip/deflection chances that came his way. Now with Patrick Sharp and John Hayden, Anisimov is back to being the main puck carrier. It’s a readjustment, but Anisimov is finding his form again.
“Right now it’s a little bit easier,” Anisimov said. “We play already four games together with Sharpie and Hayds, and you kind of get used to it and get to know each other better. It’s making the game easier.”
So does having more confidence. Struggling to score as much as others through this recent stretch, Anisimov looked like he was lacking that necessary confidence. Three goals in as many games isn’t a massive scoring streak, but it does lend a boost.
Anisimov has worked through some changes this season, from line mates to where he’s at in the lineup to resuming a true center role. It took a little time, but it looks like he’s regaining his form.
“You lose two wingers like you had, that was a pretty great position to be in playing with two of the best in the game. So maybe there are some adjustments there. But he can still be a position to be playing with some top guys as we’re going along as well,” Quenneville said. “I don’t think he’s complaining with who he’s playing with now, and I think with Arty, that big middle center you like, gives you some options when he’s playing like that.”