Detroit — Andreas Athanasiou’s time on ice is up, especially in recent games, and Anthony Mantha is playing increased minutes so far this season.
It is a sign that the all-important development of the Red Wings potential stars is proceeding.
Mantha is averaging 17:19 per game, and in a few recent games he has played as much as 19 and 20 minutes. It is a healthy increase from an average of 15:54 last season.
Athanasiou’s average of 15:26 per game is an increase from 13:27 last season. And he played 16:12 against the Blues.
“I thought last game both guys played really, really well,” Jeff Blashill said of their performance in the 6-1 loss to the Blues.
“I thought Athanasiou was great; it might have been one of his better games of the year.”
Skating hard while not in possession of the puck and passing it with the knowledge it will be returned eventually, rather than continuously skating with it, are two areas of emphasis for Athanasiou, Blashill said.
“That’s two big parts he’s got to be better at in order to be a great player,” he said. “It can’t be one-one-one, highlight-reel stuff all of the time. The defensemen in this league are too good.
“So, he’s got to have give-and-go in his game and he’s got to skate away from the puck. I thought he did that great.”
Athanasiou said his mind is set on quality, not quantity.
“Anytime I get out there, I just try to play my game,” Athanasiou said. “I don’t worry about the minutes too much.”
Blashill also liked the way Mantha is playing, and played through much of the loss, even no goals resulted.
“l thought Anthony was skating good, especially early, for sure,” Blashill said.
Already on a brisk scoring pace, Mantha said he would have liked to help out on the board Saturday.
“Probably the little details, we talked about it a little this morning,” he said. “Maybe having a little more net-front presence.
“We need to work on those, and maybe the puck’s going to go in.”
The bobblehead souvenir of Dylan Larkin, distributed at the game Monday, depicts his appearance during a childhood video of him shooting around with a young friend in his basement that received considerable attention last season.
At first, Larkin experienced about as much embarrassment as a 21-year-old might feel watching almost any video of himself as a 12-year-old. He also took some kidding from his teammates, a requirement of any young player, of course, in the NHL.
A good sport, Larkin persisted with the notoriety last season, especially when he realized how much fun fans had watching the video. As he stood at his dressing stall Monday morning watching the facsimile of his head bobbing, he said the whole thing has been fun.
“I was a little embarrassed at first,” Larkin said.
When he knew the video had recirculated and his teammates had it, Larkin said, “My stomach dropped.”
But laughs about it now.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew exactly what it was,” he said. “I didn’t need to watch it.
“It took me a little bit to warm up to it, but people seemed to enjoy it.
“That’s what I used to do when I was a kid.”
In search of consistency
The Red Wings’ lack of consistency over the past two seasons is startling.
While Blashill, general manager Ken Holland and the players say they are capable of consistently playing well, it has been more than two seasons since substantially the same roster has been able to put it together, and keep it together, for a significant stretch of games.
“I mean, you know, you can’t exactly pinpoint why,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “But I know that we’ve talked about it a lot, that we want to play a certain way. Play fast, and make it hard on opposing teams and try to limit turnovers.”
Outshooting the Blues 20-10 through two periods Saturday and limiting the shots of another powerful offensive team, the Jets, and holding them to a goal, in their previous game are signs the Red Wings can play well, at least in segments.
“We’ve just got to continue to find ways to win,” Abdelkader said. “If we do thinks right and play the right way, most nights we’ll get good result out of it.”