Anthony Mantha: Why “I’ve been playing way better” lately for Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha, March 15, 2021.
Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
At last, Anthony Mantha seems to be emerging from the malaise that defined his first half of the season.
The Detroit Red Wings forward takes a nice point streak into Tuesday’s home game against the Carolina Hurricanes, after which the Wings host the Dallas Stars for a pair of games at Little Caesars Arena.
The Wings are coming off one of their better weeks, taking three of four points against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and losing a one-goal game to the Hurricanes, also one of the best teams in the Central Division. For a team that has struggled so much to score (bottom-three in the league in goals per game), netting 12 goals in three games is encouraging.
The Wings (8-17-4) had their most productive outing of the season with a 6-4 victory over the Lightning, two nights after taking the Bolts to overtime. Then came a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes that left coach Jeff Blashill saying the Wings needed to shoot the puck more. Mantha scored with 9.4 seconds on the clock to earn his second goal in two games.
“I knew when we started the season I wasn’t playing good, so I had to figure something out,” Mantha said. “Lately I think I’ve been playing way better. I’m harder in battles. I had way more scoring chances in the last couple games than I had earlier in the year. I’m trying to build off of that.”
For his contribution on the ice and honest self-evaluation off it, Mantha leads off this week’s stock watch.
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Mantha’s first half included going eight games without a point and one game as a healthy scratch. The Wings need so much more from their 6-foot-5, $22.8 million winger, and last week was more like it. Mantha was involved physically, he was dangerous with the puck, he recorded his first multipoint game of the season and tallied two goals and two assists. Sunday he played a season-high 22:29 minutes.
“Blash sees it right away and he uses me way more,” Mantha said. “I know a game where I’m playing 18-22 minutes, that I am playing really well. If I am playing more like 15-16 minutes, that’s probably because either penalties or I’m not playing as good.”
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He’s on a three-game point streak with five assists, giving him a team-leading 15 points. He shoots right and has a good, accurate shot, so seeing him wind up from the blue line is generally a good sign. He’s still looking for his first goal, but that will come. He’s the best defenseman on the team and he’s only 23.
Between an injury and a four-day break in the schedule, Larkin had been off nearly two weeks when he returned March 9. He’s looked refreshed and has played better hockey, scoring in each of the Lightning games and creating a couple of good chances against the Hurricanes.
“He came back with as much confidence as he’s had with the puck all season,” Blashill said.
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He’s a well-deserved fixture in this category thanks to his consistency. Bernier made two starts last week, going 1-1 with a .921 save percentage. When Bernier is in net, his teammates know he is going to give them a chance to win.
Consider his stats dating to Dec. 15, 2019: in 40 appearances (37starts), Bernier has a .914 save percentage and 2.81 goals-against average — and that’s on a team that’s been consistently at the bottom of the standings.
Greiss, 35, was signed in the offseason to replace Jimmy Howard, who struggled last season, winning two games and none after October 2019. But halfway through this season, Greiss has won once in 17 appearances (15 starts).
Last week he started the first game against the Lightning, a 4-3 loss in OT. His save percentage was .862. His teammates expose him to high-quality chances and odd-man rushes at times, but the same thing happens to Bernier and he finds a way to make the save.
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He’s been a healthy scratch the last two games. While Brome works hard and is a good skater, “the reality is production” Blashill said. “He’s had one goal in 20-some games. Production is something, it matters.”
Jeff Blashill: Surging Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin good for Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, March 15, 2021.
Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.