There have been a few unsung heros during the New York Rangers' resurgence which has seen the team reel off a four-game winning streak to end a six-game homestand. One of those players has been Artem Anisimov, who is quietly putting together his best stretch of hockey so far this season.
Anisimov has recorded a goal and four assists in his last four games to raise his points total to eight on the year. That's good enough for third on the Rangers so far, and he leads the entire team in assists.
But it's not just about the numbers. Anisimov is providing stability to a top line in both ends of the ice. While we all know that Marian Gaborik can play defense, he is most dangerous when he doesn't need to worry about coming back to help out the defense. The same goes for Derek Stepan who is also starting to find his game in the offensive zone.
Join me after the jump to find out how.
Both players have benefited from Anisimov's ability to hustle back and help out defensively, while the duo tries to make things happen in the offensive zone. It works because Anisimov is a very good defensive player, who knows his responsibilities, and marks up well in the defensive zone.
You saw what his defense can create against Winnipeg. Let's take a look at Gaborik's first goal of the night:
It's Anisimov who is working along the boards to free the puck up. And once he obtains possession he levies a perfect pass to Stepan's stick, who takes care of business with Gaborik.
That's a perfect example of why Anisimov's play has been so great this season. He's creating offense with his defense. Another good example of this is Gaborik's second goal:
OK, so it's not the best example of defense leading to offense -- since Gaborik flipped a puck into an empty net -- but you see the point. Anisimov doing the dirty work along the boards, working the puck free and getting it to the open man.
He might not be receiving as much credit as Stepan, Gaborik, Brad Richards or Ryan Callahan are right now, but he has been every bit as important.
And when his defensive play isn't hogging the spotlight, he shows off his vision and his shot. Here's the pass he dished to Dan Girardi for the Rangers' first goal against the Montreal Canadiens in a 5-3 win on Saturday.
Here's Anisimov's secondary assist on the brilliant Michael Del Zotto goal against the Canadiens:
I know the assist isn't much, it's just a smart play, but look at what he does after the pass. Anisimov recognizes that he doesn't have a shooting lane, drops the puck behind him to the open man and then goes to the open side of the net. More than a few players would have dropped the puck and just skated through, but Anisimov moved to the open side of the goal in case there was a rebound or a third pass.
And finally, we'll look at his goal against the San Jose Sharks, which was one of the prettiest goals you will see this season.
It's no surprise that the entire team has been playing better since the Rangers started finding their game. But a big part of that has been Anisimov. And although he might not be getting as much of the spotlight, he certianly deserves an equal share of the credit.