In the first three games of Artem Anisimov’s five-year, $22.75 million contract, the Blackhawks center has as many penalties (four) as he does shots on goal. He has one assist, is a minus-2, and his possession numbers are under water. And his line, the best in hockey last season, has looked like a shell of itself when it’s been together.
It’s not exactly the start he had in mind.
“We just need to find a way to play better, individually and collectively,” Anisimov said. “It hasn’t been a great start, but I just need to take the lessons from the games and move forward.”
The biggest lesson? Stay out of the penalty box. Only two players in the league were whistled for more penalties in the first three games than Anisimov, and three of his four stints in the box have ended with a power-play goal by the opposing team. Three of the penalties were hooking penalties, one was a delay of game for flipping the puck over the glass.
“I just need to play smarter, put my stick in the right position,” Anisimov said. “I need to be smarter with these plays, because it can change the game. If a guy’s going to be on a 2-on-1, and you lift his stick or hook him to prevent a score, that’s a good penalty. But my penalties are not good.”
Hooking penalties are often out of laziness or frustration, and Anisimov is trying to make sure that frustration doesn’t mount, and lead to even more stick infractions.
“You need to stop that snowball — just break it, smash it into pieces,” he said with a laugh. “No more penalties.”
Anisimov likely will be back with Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane for Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The line has yet to produce an even-strength goal. Kane had two assists on Saturday against Nashville, but one came on a power play and one was setting up Richard Panik’s third goal of the game. Panarin has yet to score a point this season. and Anisimov has just one secondary assist on a power play.
“We need to make simple plays, get the feeling back,” Anisimov said. “Shoot the puck, make simple plays, effective plays, keep the puck in the offensive zone. We’re going to be successful if we’re going to keep the puck in the offensive zone and play less in the D-zone. And even when we’re in the D-zone, we just need to play strong defense and the offense is going to come off of that.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is looking for more from Anisimov, but he’s hardly the only one. It’s been Panik and the rookies who have done most of the heavy lifting so far.
“Across the board, we need more,” Quenneville said. “We can’t be happy with how we’ve played in three games. The last game, we gave up a higher number of chances [that] we usually don’t see, more probably than in the first two games together. We have to tighten up in all aspects of our game. We can’t be satisfied. We need more.”