Blackhawks center Anisimov staying positive during challenging season
Ask Stan Bowman how he thinks Artem Anisimov is performing and you'll get a glowing response.
Same goes with Jeremy Colliton.
By the numbersArtem Anisimov's stats with the Blackhawks:
Season GP G A Pts.
2015-16 77 20 22 42
2016-17 64 22 23 45
2017-18 72 20 11 31
2018-19 60 11 18 29
Note: (Anisimov is on pace for 14 goals, 23 assists)
But go straight to the source and you will definitely have entered the No Spin Zone.
"Not good. Not happy," Anisimov said shortly before the Blackhawks departed on a three-game road trip to Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. "I could play better. (Not happy) about scoring goals. It's always so close. The puck is so close, but it just doesn't go in for me.
"It's frustrating, you know?"
Anisimov, who did score a short-handed goal in the Hawks' 4-3 victory against the Ducks on Wednesday, expects a lot out of himself and has always been brutally honest about his play.
The soft-spoken, yet surprisingly funny 6-foot-4 Russian center has been a bit of a square peg in a round hole since Artemi Panarin was sent to Columbus in exchange for Brandon Saad in June 2017.
In the two seasons before that, Anisimov quietly went about his business while playing between Panarin and Patrick Kane. He'd tap in the stray loose puck, redirect a shot or two, was responsible defensively and became a steady force on the power play.
With Panarin gone, Anisimov struggled to find his footing last season, yet still led the Hawks with 11 power-play goals and finished with 20 overall -- his third straight 20-goal campaign. He managed just 11 assists, however -- a stat that never sat well with him.
This season, Anisimov's power-play time has dropped significantly and he's been in a bottom-six role for over a month.
Asked if centering the third line is bugging him, Anisimov quickly said: "No. If I'm going to start scoring goals (he has 11 in 60 games), my ice time is going to go up. … Sometimes the goalie makes the save, sometimes I'm like messed up (or) the puck is bouncing. All little things.
"Just need to be a little more patient around the net and it's going to go in."
While the goal total is down, Colliton is often asking Anisimov, Saad and Dylan Sikura to shut down the opponent's top line. They've been quite effective at it, too, and it's a big reason the Hawks won 10 of 12 games between Jan. 20-Feb. 20.
"He had a real nice stretch lately where he's winning a lot of puck battles, he's making plays, he's skating more, he's more active," Colliton said. "That line with Saad and Sikura -- they've been playing well. …
"He has more in him. But I definitely think he's moving in the right direction as far as his game."
Some pundits believed Anisimov and his $4.55 million cap hit might be moved at the Feb. 25 trade deadline. There were two serious hurdles that would have been difficult to clear, however:
• Anisimov has two years remaining on his contract.
• He had a modified no-trade clause in which he could name 10 teams that he could be sent to.
That clause vanishes this off-season, giving Bowman a chance to shop Anisimov to the entire league.
That's if he wants to, of course. Publicly, Bowman's always been a big fan of Anisimov -- it's a big reason he signed him to a five-year deal just after completing a trade with Columbus in the summer of 2015 -- so don't assume the big center will be elsewhere in 2019-20.
"Obviously he had success a couple years ago playing with Patrick Kane on an offensive line," Bowman said. "But the thing we've always like about him is he has that versatility.
"He kills penalties, he can play on other lines as well. It doesn't just have to be a scoring line. That's nice to have as a centerman."