Mantha scores on his return home to Montreal
Montreal — There’s been a steady line of NHL firsts for Anthony Mantha.
Another one occurred Tuesday as Mantha, a Montreal native, played his first NHL game at Bell Centre.
But, he worked hard to keep it as regular as any other game he has played.
“Game day, it’s always the same routine,” Mantha said. “I just tried to keep it going (the same way) and obviously last night (Monday) we came in late so that was pretty easy.”
Trying to get about 50 tickets to a game in Montreal is difficult, but this time it wasn’t bad.
“It’s a litte bit easier since they’re (the Canadiens) out of the playoffs,” Mantha said.
Mantha scored his first NHL goal March 24 at Joe Louis Arena against the Canadiens with approximately 20 family and friends in attendance.
He had one goal and one assist in seven games before scoring Tuesday night, but was making offensive plays and creating chances.
The fact Red Wings officials and coach Jeff Blashill told Mantha he was here to stay gave the rookie some confidence.
“I’m not going to say take it easy, but mentally it’s a little bit easier to get focused and not worrying if there’s one bad game, you can bounce back the next game,” Mantha said. “You just keep proving yourself and obviously being in a race for the playoffs is huge.
“I’ve learned a lot and it’s just exciting to be a part of it.”
Blashill has stated it will be Mantha’s ability to battle on the ice that will determine how successful he is in the NHL.
“If he wins puck battles and physical battles on a consistent basis, he’ll be a real good player,” Blashill said. “That’s going to be his challenge, to make sure on a shift by shift and game by game basis he’s doing that.
“He’s had moments where he’s done that and some where he hasn’t and that’s part of the learning process.”
Power play is back
The Red Wings have a power-play goal in six consecutive games, including Tuesday against the Canadiens, a contrast to earlier problems.
What’s been the difference?
“We’ve done a real good job of attacking,” Blashill said. “We’ve done a better job of getting pucks to the net and getting people to the net. It’s a real simple formula.”
A bit of luck can be a factor, too.
“Sometimes it just goes in,” Blashill said.
“We can have a great power play and the puck doesn’t go in. But we’ve done a better job of being consistent in the process of it.”