Detroit — This hasn’t been the start to the Red Wings season Anthony Mantha wanted.
In fact, it’s been pretty miserable.
Heading into Monday’s game, Mantha only had three points (one goal, two assists) in the first eight games, with a team-worst minus-11 plus-minus rating.
It’s gotten so bad, Mantha is now on the fourth line and has been bumped off the power play.
“I need to win his confidence back,” Mantha said of coach Jeff Blashill. “That’s the main thing I’m trying to do right now.”
Mantha, 24, has had bouts of inconsistency throughout his NHL and minor league career, and not playing with the passion or work ethic required for success.
There is a tendency to stand around too much, and not skate.
Much of the current problem is linked to that, with Blashill having a brief meeting Saturday with Mantha to discuss his demotion in the lineup.
“You work harder,” Mantha said of what needs to be done. “I had a meeting with Blash the other morning and we talked about it. That’s why I’m on the fourth line right now. I need to get my game going and go back up the ladder.”
Mantha understands what needs to be done.
“It’s just being intense, winning battles, using my body to win those battles, and obviously putting the effort more in games,” Mantha said. “Last game (Saturday in Florida) I didn’t play a whole lot of minutes (8:24) but I won my battles, I had a couple scoring chances, so I need to build off from that and keep going forward.”
Blashill has met with Mantha before, over the years, in Detroit and Grand Rapids when both were with the Griffins, so this development isn’t anything new.
Blashill almost seemed a bit bewildered as to why the problem continues to exist.
“I’m not sure, I don’t know why it’s a reoccurring theme,” Blashill said. “But it’s something we’ll keep working at. He’s a good kid who wants to be a real good player. It’s our job to keep trying to do everything we can to help him get there.
“We’ve talked about it before. It’s important for him that we show him when he’s doing it right and when he’s not, and recognize the difference in those two things.
“Anthony has played a certain way a long time in his life, and over the past number of years, we’ve been trying to change that so he could be an effective player as possible at this level.”
Blashill mentioned several ways the coaching staff goes about changing bad habits with players. There’s talking, or showing video, or simply taking away ice time.
The Wings have done all of that with Mantha over the years.
“This isn’t something that he doesn’t want to change,” Blashill said. “He wants to change, he recognizes that to you guys and to me. He has to find a way to get moving in a more consistent basis.”
Home sweet home
The Wings are at the bottom of the standings, and it’s going to take a lot of work to move upward.
But there’s an opportunity to get back to respectability, with seven of their next eigtht games (beginning Monday) at Little Caesars Arena.
The idea Blashill is preaching to his team, though, is taking a game-to-game approach rather than looking at the entire home stand.
“Just get better every single day and focus on the game in front of us,” Blashill said. “Whatever happened on Saturday (the Wings’ first victory) happened on Saturday and doesn’t mean much anymore. It’s in the record books and you move on and you get better.
“We need to come out with a real strong effort and focus on one game and not look ahead beyond that (night’s game). Let’s just keep focusing on the task at hand.”
Defenseman Filip Hronek appeared to be a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game, with the likelihood increasing he’ll be headed to Grand Rapids soon.
“We’ll talk about that,” Blashill said. “We’re just focusing on (Monday night's) game, and he’ll warm up (Monday) but probably won’t be in the lineup, and we’ll make any decision past that (Tuesday).”
… Blashill has liked what he’s seen of the Andreas Athanasiou, Frans Nielsen and Tyler Bertuzzi line.
“The last two games, they’ve been gaining some chemistry,” Blashill said. “Hopefully, that’s a positive. We need a little bit more out of everybody, otherwise we wouldn’t be with the record we are at.”