Blackhawks

In midst of career season, Artem Anisimov still not satisfied with overall game

In midst of career season, Artem Anisimov still not satisfied with overall game

In terms of points this season, Artem Anisimov is closing in on some career numbers.

His goal against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night was his 22nd of the season, tying a career best set with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013-14. One more point and he'll equal his career best (44) in that department from 2010-11, when he was with the New York Rangers.

And all of this is with 20 games remaining in the regular season. So is this Anisimov's best career regular season?

"Ah, no," Anisimov said recently. "Close to it, but not good enough."

Anisimov would list a few things he still needs to improve upon – we'll get to that later – but even "close," Anisimov has had another strong season for the Blackhawks, once again centering Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane. It's easy to focus on those two wings, given their dazzling play-making ability. But every line needs at least one blue-collar guy, the one who does more of the dirty work and perhaps takes the punishment in front of the net.

For the second consecutive season, that second-line guy is Anisimov, and his net-front play, especially, has led to more production this season.

"Arty's a smart player. He knows getting there, there [are] rewards for being around the net," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He finds his positioning. Sometimes he gets there at the right time and his arrival times are due to his anticipation with his wingers. [It's] the willingness; there's some abuse you have to take over the course of a regular season and it doesn't distract Arty from getting there."

Anisimov's game-winner against the Blues came the way so many others have this season: around the net. This one was off a slick pass from Panarin. Be it scoring goals like that, limiting a goaltender's vision or cleaning up rebounds, Anisimov's net-front presence has been steady. 

"He's coming up with pucks, gets those loose pucks to Kaner and Bread Man and they do their thing and create some magic there. Or you have Arty in front and you have Kaner and Bread doing their thing back and forth across the zone and you have that big body in front," Ryan Hartman said. "It makes it difficult, and not just when one of them are shooting. Sometimes the goalie can't see the pass because Arty's there and it's really deceptive and a big part of our team."

So the production has been there, no doubt. But where does Anisimov feel he's lacking?

"I just need to improve in all aspects: skating, back check, forecheck, stick position," Anisimov said. "All the little things have to be a little bit better."

Most players are never satisfied with where their games are. They're always looking to improve. Anisimov will keep working on what he thinks are some deficiencies but his constant net-front presence has filled what used to be an issue for the Blackhawks.

After snapping 12-game goal drought, Alex DeBrincat hoping 'I can get hot again'

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AP

After snapping 12-game goal drought, Alex DeBrincat hoping 'I can get hot again'

BOSTON — Alex DeBrincat isn't used to going through long stretches without scoring a goal. He found the back of the net 41 times last season, which was tied for sixth amongst all skaters.

But the offense hasn't come as naturally for him this season. 

While he's dishing out assists at a career-high rate (0.50 per game), DeBrincat had only five goals through 27 games going into Thursday and was on pace to finish the season with 15. The longest goal drought of his NHL career is 13 games, which came during his rookie season, and he was on the verge of tying that mark.

But after breaking through in the third period of Thursday's 4-3 overtime win over the Boston Bruins, DeBrincat ended a 12-game drought for his first goal since Nov. 7. And he's hoping it will open the floodgates.

"It was a long time between goals," DeBrincat said. "But hopefully I can get hot again and keep going."

DeBrincat didn't show it, but the frustration was brewing inside. In Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche he couldn't convert on an open backdoor chance and took out his anger on Samuel Girard by picking a fight with the 5-foot-10, 170-pound defenseman.

DeBrincat is a goal scorer and he wasn't scoring. With the monkey off his back, perhaps this could propel his offensive production.

"He's been playing well, getting chances," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They just haven't gone in for him. Hopefully this is the little boost that he needs."

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Blackhawks pick up marquee overtime win in Boston, but will it serve as jump-start to something bigger?

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USA Today

Blackhawks pick up marquee overtime win in Boston, but will it serve as jump-start to something bigger?

BOSTON — The Blackhawks knew Thursday's matchup against the Boston Bruins was going to be a serious test. They had lost three in a row (0-3-0) and six of their past seven games (1-5-1) and were running into a Bruins team that was aiming for their ninth consecutive win.

To make things more challenging, the Blackhawks were without Duncan Keith (groin) for the fourth straight game, Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol) for the second time and Olli Maatta (flu-like symptoms). It was going to be a measuring stick kind of game for the Blackhawks against the reigning Eastern Conference champions, especially after getting blown out 4-0 to the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in their previous outing.

The Blackhawks were slightly the better team through the first 40 minutes, capitalizing on a couple of chances and killing off four penalties against the NHL's second-ranked power play unit to take a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. But you knew the Bruins, who had yet to lose in regulation at home this season (12-0-4), were going to push back hard in their own building and they did.

After Alex DeBrincat scored 17 seconds — how fitting? — into the third period to make it 3-0, the Bruins responded 1:32 later and that's when the ride turned in a hurry.

The Bruins peppered the Blackhawks with 11 even-strength scoring chances in the third period, according to Natural Stat Trick, after having 12 in the first two periods combined and scored three straight to force overtime. Chris Wagner took advantage of an Erik Gustafsson tire blowout on a 2-on-1 opportunity by scoring a shorthanded goal to cut the Blackhawks' lead to 3-2 with 4:59 left in regulation and Torey Krug tied it up at 3-3 just 2:26 later.

But Jonathan Toews salvaged the second point for the Blackhawks by scoring on a breakaway 54 seconds into overtime to give his club a much-needed 4-3 victory against arguably the NHL's best team.

"I think we did a good job of hanging in there," Toews said of the Bruins' third-period push. "We're not happy with giving up the lead for sure. ... But it's nice to get the win even though they turned the momentum late in the game."

It was a win the Blackhawks can feel good about from the perspective that every guy played an important role. 

Ryan Carpenter scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season, DeBrincat (12 games) and Toews (seven) each ended their goal droughts, Dylan Strome had a multi-point effort after missing four games with a concussion, Connor Murphy had a two-assist night, Calvin de Haan led all skaters with 25:26 of ice time and Robin Lehner stopped 37 of 40 shots for a save percentage of .925 after getting pulled in his last start.

The Blackhawks were desperate for a win and they got it, even though it was an ugly finish.

"We knew it was a great opportunity because we haven't played up to par for a long period of time," Lehner said. "We know we have to change the tide and this was a great opportunity to do so. As I've said before we've shown in spurts we're a good team, we've just got to start doing it consistently. It's the same thing in the third period today. We were doing some things that were unacceptable that we need to just take out of our game and then we'll be fine. We have the right personnel on this team to be a good team."

While they will certainly take the two points on the road, the Blackhawks know it won't matter unless they turn this into something larger. They've slipped near the bottom of the Western Conference and are trying to climb their way back up yet again.

And there's an opportunity for the Blackhawks to earn four points in a 48-hour span on Friday against a New Jersey Devils squad that has the second-fewest points (22) of any team and second-worst goal differential (minus-32).

"We had a little run there after we had a big win in Nashville," Toews said. "Whether we win a string of games together, we can build off games like this. We had the start we needed tonight and carried it through 60 for the most part. It's got to be a confidence builder when you beat a team like Boston in their own building but what matters is what we do next. We got another chance to build off it tomorrow night."

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