Artem Anisimov was planted right in front of Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson, right where he needed to be to score off Michal Rozsival’s rebound shot.
For a guy who’s always felt comfortable as a net-front presence, it was another reward for being there.
“I’ve done that all my life because I was big, so I could try to go to the net. Because one time a coach said, ‘all the goals come at the net front,’” Anisimov said. “You can play outside the whole game long, but if you don’t go inside, nothing will happen.”
The 6-foot-4 Anisimov has gone inside a great deal this season and has benefited from it. That includes Sunday, when Anisimov scored his fourth goal in his last six in the Blackhawks’ 3-0 victory over the Senators. He has 15 goals through his first 40 games with the Blackhawks; that’s just seven shy of his career best of 22, recorded with the Blue Jackets during the 2013-14 season.
“He’s been a perfect fit for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s so responsible on the other side of the puck that the offense, to me, is a bonus. That line, with those two wingers being special players, they generate so much for our team game and sometimes he gets the finished product by being at the net like he was [Sunday].”
Anisimov shies away from the individual accolades. He’s more concerned with how he and his line mates Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane are playing as a trio. Anisimov said the line has “had bumps in the road,” – albeit, not many – but that it’s playing better as of late.
Duncan Keith said Anisimov’s role with that group is underrated.
“I’m not taking anything away from the other two wingers because we know what they’ve done. But Arty, he’s been great,” Keith said. “He’s been huge for us, [with] his net presence and his board battles and getting the puck to Kane and Panarin.”
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As for Anisimov, bringing that net-front presence, no matter how physical it gets there, is enjoyable.
“It’s fun playing there,” he said. “Most of the goals scored from the net area, and I just try to go there and I have two great wingers who can make plays. I try to create space for them, go to the net, take away the goalie’s eyes and good things can happen.”
A lot of good has happened in Anisimov’s brief time with the Blackhawks. He’s solved their second-line center dilemma. Even more, he’s not afraid to plant himself in front of opposing goaltenders, and that has sparked his individual game as much as it’s benefited the team one.
“The rewards are there,” Quenneville said. “He’s done a lot for our team and one of the things is getting to the net.”