People from in and around Columbus are an apple pie, patriotic bunch. This is reflected in their NHL club’s name being a nod to Civil War Union troops and the fact that their team’s colors are essentially a variation of red, white and blue. (They’re actually union blue, capital silver and goal post red, if you want to get technical.) Even though Columbus Blue Jackets fans embrace anything stars and stripes, there’s another red, white and blue flag that will competing for their loyalties: Russia’s.
With Jack Johnson being perhaps Team USA‘s biggest roster snub (he was the former USA team captain after all) and Marian Gaborik not being medically cleared to play for Team Slovakia, that leaves four Blue Jackets with four Olympians, all of whom are Russian: Artem Anisimov, 2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, Nikita Nikitan and Fedor Tyutin.
All of the Russian fab four have been integral, if not fantastic contributors to Columbus’s new-found success — especially Bobrovsky. That’s why we’ll be doing a comprehensive bio on each player every day leading up to the Feb. 13 Team USA vs. Team Russia game which will most likely determine who wins Group A and who gets a bye for a game in the first round of the elimination portion of the tournament.
Let’s start off the festivities with an “Arty Party”:
I can’t handle this. Anisimov, Maria Kirilenko (Ovi’s Fiance), Ovi, and Datsyuk heading to Sochi. pic.twitter.com/rMs0VjGR1e
— FHW (@FutureHckeyWife) February 9, 2014
Anisimov is a beast of a centerman, standing at an intimidating 6-foot-4, 205-pounds. The 25-year-old is not a head hunter, but he can throw the body around and punish the opposition when he wants to. His speed isn’t elite, but it’s more than adequate for what will be asked of him in the third-line center role. Many project that he’ll likely be flanked on the wings by Toronto Maple Leafs‘ Nikolai Kulemen and Dallas Stars‘ rookie Valeri Nichushkin.
Anisimov’s greatest strength is his solid, defensively-sound two-way game. Unlike fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin, he’ll never be accused of not hustling back to his own end to help keep pucks out of Bobrovsky’s net. People shouldn’t be the least bit surprised to also see him out there on the penalty kill. He certainly has the ability to focus on and shut down skilled star players from other countries’ teams. He also hovers around 50 percemt in the face-off dot. Anisimov doesn’t come with as much flash any many other Russian forwards, but Russians will certainly appreciate his defensive prowess.
Offensively, Anisimov both makes you leap out of your chair and then makes you shake your head in frustration due to his woeful, maddening inconsistency. The man has great hand-eye coordination and deking skills; he’s a playmaker who can create space for himself and teammates by using his big frame to guard the puck. Sometimes he just can’t seem to piece all those natural gifts together or just becomes invisible in the offensive zone. However, he maintains a decent shot, but his underappreciated backhand is absolutely sick and borderline elite. Many goalies who faced him on a breakaway, penalty shot or shootout can attest to this.
Safe to to say there doesn’t seem to be as many “Arty parties” thrown this season as last. He only played in 35 games last year, posting 11 goals and 18 points. In 58 games played this season, he’s scored only 13 goals, though his assist rates have gone up slightly, making him good for 26 points. Given his innate skill-set and how Columbus is 7th in the league in scoring, he has no excuse to not be at least a 25-goals per season scorer. Columbus fans have seen flashes of greatness and expect better than this from him.
That being said, Russia is stacked with elite forwards who can light the lamp on a whim. They’ll be thrilled if Anisimov contributes more offensively, but they know that, if nothing else, they have a prototypical, if not ideal, third-line pivot they can rely on to be defensively sound and will never lack hustle or effort. Having the added familiarity of playing with fellow Jackets Tyutin and Nikitan is a nice little bonus.