What Detroit Red Wings’ victory says about Givani Smith — and Anthony Mantha

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Givani Smith had a statement game for the Detroit Red Wings, earrning a Gordie Howe hat trick to help them snap an eight-game winless skid.

While it was a terrific showing for the 2016 second-round draft pick, the Wings’ 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, did not reflect well on Anthony Mantha, a 2013 first-rounder who sat out the game as a healthy scratch. Considering how poorly the Wings had fared since losing five players to COVID-19 the opening week of the season, pulling Mantha was quite a message.

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“I just made the decision to go with the group I went with,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Any conversation I had with Anthony is private. I’m not going go to comment further.”

Teammate Robby Fabbri, who recorded his second goal of the season after being sidelined for most of the season by COVID-19, raved about Smith.

“It was a great example of what he brings to the team,” Fabbri said. “He has had a great mentality coming in and doing what is needed. He did a little bit of everything with a hit, a goal and an assist. That’s what we need out of him.”

Smith, the 46th overall pick in 2016, had not heard of a Gordie Howe hat trick until informed by teammates. Named after the franchise legend, Smith completed the feat when he fought Aaron Ekblad — after scoring the Wings’ second goal and setting up Fabbri’s.

Smith’s goal and assist gave him four points in six games. He has been on and off the taxi squad, trying to make a case that, at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he can bring goals as well as grit to the lineup.

““The only thing I can really do is, the only time I am in the lineup, work my hardest and hopefully it pays off in the long run,” Smith said.

The Wings see Sunday’s outcome, which started with a goal from newcomer Marc Staal and finished with a goal from newcomer Vladislav Namestnikov, as well deserved after playing hard Friday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“You need results to build confidence,” Blashill said. “I talk about process lots, but ultimately you need results to build confidence. Getting the result was huge. “We played the type of game we have to play to be successful. We competed really hard and we defended and checked well. And we got to their net.”

Luke Glendening left in the first period after suffering an upper-body injury, but Blashill said Glendening “seemed in a good spot” after there game.

Thomas Greiss earned his first victory in a Wings uniform with 36 saves. Jonathan Bernier remained sidelined by an upper-body injury suffered when he was run into by Mantha on Jan. 28 in Dallas. 

The Wings (3-8-2) play at Florida again Tuesday. Given their victory Sunday, Mantha could sit again. That would be a damming situation, considering he is a top-line player and signed for four years and $22.8 million in the offseason.

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Givani Smith makes case for spot with Detroit Red Wings

Givani Smith interview, Feb. 7, 2021

Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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