Tale of two seasons
Anisimov played in just 64 regular season games last season, yet still delivered 22 goals and a career-high 45 points. His seven game-winning-goals were also a career benchmark and tied Marian Hossa for team leader. It’s an interesting comparison and only a minor contrivance to evaluate Anisimov’s 2016-17 regular season as two groups of 32 games.
Artie got off to a red-hot start in October, quickly generating a career-best 11-game point streak where he notched eight goals and nine assists and was named the NHL second star of the week at the end of October. Over his first 32 games, Anisimov scored 14 goals and 27 points, with six game-winners and a plus-12 rating. During this period, Anisimov, Hossa, and Corey Crawford largely carried the Blackhawks while Jonathan Toews and the penalty killers were struggling.
Then Anisimov suffered an upper body injury on Dec. 17 in a 6-4 win over St. Louis, and missed the next three games. After returning to action Dec. 27 in the ‘Hawks’ 3-1 loss to Winnipeg, Anisimov tallied four goals in five games, but his production then slowly reverted to mere mortal dimensions.
In his last 32 regular season games, Anisimov scored eight goals and ten assists, with just one game-winner and a minus-3 rating. A substantial drop all around from the first half of the season.
And as mentioned earlier, Artie was not a valuable asset in the playoff series against Nashville.
Anisimov was a huge factor in the Blackhawks’ spectacular regular season run that ended as Western Conference champions. Centering the second line, he was the catalyst that powered the monster seasons of his wingers Artemi Panarin, Kane and Hossa. He’s worth every penny of his $4.55 million cap hit, and I was only mildly amused by the recent trade rumors regarding him and the Canadiens’ Alex Galchenyuk.
‘Hawks fans are likely wondering if Artie will return next season ready to play at 100 percent. Let’s hope he does.