Ex-Wing Anthony Mantha disappointed by his playoff debut in Washington

Detroit News

Detroit — Anthony Mantha was back in Detroit on Thursday. In many ways, it felt like it always has.

The hockey season over, Mantha was just returning from a trip to Florida, and was catching up with friends and teammates while preparing to head to his hometown of Montreal on Friday.

But this summer is different.

Mantha isn’t a member of the Red Wings anymore, having been traded on deadline day to Washington for Jakub Vrana, RIchard Panik and draft picks.

“The first day I came back from D.C., I saw (Tyler) Bertuzzi, Fabs (Robby Fabbri) and (Jonathan) Bernier,” said Mantha, who expects to stay in Montreal several weeks than return to Detroit for the remainder of the summer.

“Friendships don’t go away just like that, you keep in touch. It’s the same group that’ll stay in Detroit this summer. So I’ll be in touch with them over the course of the summer.”

While the Wings missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, Mantha got his first taste of NHL postseason hockey.

More: Adam Erne’s breakthrough season with Wings an example of capitalizing on opportunities

It didn’t go the way he and the Capitals wanted. Washington was eliminated in five games by Boston, with Mantha contributing two assists and no goals in the five games. His ice time dwindled to a series-low 12:23 seconds in Game 5.

It was a learning experience.

“All the excitement that goes with it, the continuous overtimes,” Mantha said. “You don’t want to make any mistakes. You’re trying to create something offensively. Just playing a couple of games will help out a lot in my future.

“The fact we didn’t win was the only (negative). It’s fun, exciting, but at the end of the day you’re playing to win every playoff series. It didn’t go our way and so you look back and you’re real disappointed we didn’t get to advance.”

Mantha wasn’t satisfied with his playoff debut.

After scoring in his first four games with the Capitals, he didn’t have a goal in his last 10 games of the regular season. The drought continued into the playoffs.

In three of the five games against Boston, Mantha had three shots or less on net. Mantha witnessed the level of tight checking the playoffs bring. Getting to open spots on the ice was difficult.

“I’m a little disappointed in myself, the way I played,” Mantha said. “But hopefully I can come back stronger next season and I’ll know what to expect.

“I went some games there at the end of the year when I didn’t score any goals. We had couple of games that went into overtime in the series. If you score two goals, maybe you win those games.

“It’s so tight out there (on the ice), there’s not a lot of room. I just need to create more space for myself in those types of games.”

Being with a veteran, Stanley Cup-winning team (2018) that expects nothing less than a long playoff run and winning the Cup was new as well.

“They’ve been a powerhouse team for the last few years,” Mantha said. “The mindset is to try and go all the way and nothing less than that. It was hard this year as a team (not advancing further).”

Mantha said he was shocked by the April 12 trade, but the adjustment to the Capitals came quickly.

“The guys were so welcoming,” he said. “I was playing the next day after I got traded, so I didn’t have any time to overthink what was going to happen. (After) getting there, it was just awesome.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better. They put me (on a line) with Back (Nicklas Backstrom) and (T.J.) Oshie. They’re all great players and it was so fun.”

Mantha found himself on a variety of lines, including playing with Hall of Famer-to-be Alex Ovechkin, and playing with Backstrom, one of the best passers in the NHL. That, in itself, was special.

“Playing with Ovi, I wanted to give him the puck every time, he’s such a great shooter,” Mantha said. “You just give it to him and he’s putting it in the back of the net. But sometimes, the play isn’t there and you’re still trying it.

“Playing with Backstrom, it’s the same thing as playing with Z (Henrik Zetterberg) in his last couple years in Detroit. Both of them slow the game down and are such great passers, so you’re trying to get open when you play with them.”

Since this was the first time Mantha has been traded, and given his relationship with many Wings, he monitored what Vrana and Detroit did after the swap. Vrana struck for eight goals in 11 games.

Mantha was pleased by the way things went for both teams.

“You move into a new role, a new city, everything adds up,” he said. “But my years in Detroit I’ll remember forever. I have great friendships around the team and it was awesome playing in Detroit.”


Twitter: @tkulfan

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