Wings loss dims milestone night for ‘real good’ Mantha
Detroit — Looking at Anthony Mantha, hearing his voice, this wasn’t the way Mantha would have preferred it happen.
Mantha scored his 20th goal of the season in the second period of Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Toronto.
But there’s the rub. The Red Wings lost. In the final 30 seconds, no less.
Certainly reaching the milestone of 20 goals didn’t feel quite as good.
“Obviously it feels good,” said Mantha, trying to make the best of the situation. “I don’t want to stop here, that’s for sure. I would rather get the two points (in the standings) than that 20th (goal).”
Mantha scored 81 goals in a junior season once (including playoffs), but in the professional ranks, only reached 20 once before, while in Grand Rapids (21 goals, in 2015-16).
Mantha had 17 goals last season, and appeared on his way to reaching 20, but broke an index finger in March while in a fight with current teammate Luke Witkowski, who was with Tampa Bay at the time.
Sunday’s goal was Mantha’s fourth in the last six games, after only scoring once in the previous nine games.
But coach Jeff Blashill, even during the goal-scoring slump, wasn’t particularly concerned.
Though the offense was missing, Blashill was pleased with Mantha’s consistent work ethic and non-stop skating.
“What I’m seeing now is work ethic,” Blashill said after an effective Mantha game last week. “He’s been excellent. His second effort has been good. He’s skating. He’s been real good.
“He’s bending his knees. When he bends his knees and skates, he’s excellent. That’s the firestarter for him. The one thing that makes a big difference is when he bends his knees and skates rather than when he’s straight-legged.
“He’s been working on that for a long time and his work ethic has been great.”
The way Mantha scored Sunday, hanging around the crease and tipping Gustav Nyquist’s shot from the slot, was another positive.
Blashill, a few times, has compared Mantha to Toronto power forward James van Riemsdyk, who also happened to score a net-front goal, his 24th goal this season, in Sunday’s game.
After Sunday’s game, Blashill again felt Mantha would do well to watch van Riemsdyk and pattern some of the way the Toronto forward plays.
“It’s a good step,” Blashill said of Mantha reaching 20 goals. “One of the big things, and I’ll talk to him about it, is he (Mantha) has scored lots of goals standing in front of the goalie, and when you learn to embrace that as a player, I don’t think it was a natural thing for him, they (the Leafs) got a guy in van Riemsdyk who consistently scores around 30 because he’s real good in front of the net.
“Anthony is hopefully seeing that just by being in front of the net you can increase your goal totals a ton. It’s good reinforcement of what net presence and that spot on the power play means.”
The chatter began almost immediately after Philadelphia goalie Michal Neuvirth left Sunday’s game in New York with a lower-body injury, and hasn’t diminished since.
Already missing their starter, Brian Elliott (core muscle surgery), and now without Neuvirth, the Flyers are likely going to make a move for a goaltender.
Petr Mrazek would make a good fit, increasing the chance of a trade before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall hasn’t seen the need for acquiring a goaltender, to this point, but with a playoff spot in the balance, he is likely going to change his mind.
Mrazek made 31 saves Sunday, 24 hours after an impressive victory in Nashville.
“Pete was real good, and made two huge saves in the third to put us in position to try and win the game,” Blashill said. “I talked to both goalies (Mrazek and Jimmy Howard) coming out of the All-Star break and said ‘I’m going to play the hot goalie.’ What constitutes hot? I don’t know; I’ll make those decisions as I move along.
“I’m happy with where both guys are at.”
The Red Wings were off Monday after the back-to-back games, and having played three games in four days.
They have another rugged stretch coming up, with four games in the next six days — and Sunday’s game in New York against the Rangers beginning a stretch of 10 of 11 games away from Little Caesars Arena.
… For all the trade speculation surrounding Mrazek and defenseman Mike Green (upper body), who has missed the last two games but could return Tuesday, another player suddenly gaining interest is Luke Glendening.
Toronto is rumored to be heavily interested in the defensive forward, as coach Mike Babcock long has been a fan of Glendening, an undrafted free agent who has made an NHL career out of his work ethic.
Predators at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM
Outlook: The Predators (34-14-9, 77 points) will attempt to avenge Saturday’s 3-1 victory by the Red Wings in Nashville. … The Predators are only 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, and Winnipeg has passed them atop the Central Division.