Red Wings' Anthony Mantha struggling, he's not only one, Jeff Blashill says
It was a bad afternoon for a lot of Red Wings, but one that stood out in a disappointing way was forward Anthony Mantha.
Not many Red Wings stood out positively Sunday in the 6-2 loss to Chicago, but Mantha had a pair of glaring misplays that only exasperated the frustration.
Mantha’s attempted clearing pass through the middle of the ice late in the second period landed directly on Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy’s stick. Murphy made no mistake beating goaltender Jonathan Bernier, extending Chicago’s lead to 3-1.
Then, at the 58-second mark of the third period, Mantha enabled Chicago’s Mattias Janmark to get position near the post, and Janmark easily converted Patrick Kane’s pass, pushing the Chicago lead to 4-1.
Mantha has a goal and two assists in six games, and is tied with Vladislav Namestnikov for a team-worst minus-5 rating.
“I wouldn’t single anybody out, because we have many guys, we have a whole group of guys, that have to be way better,” said coach Jeff Blashill, regarding Mantha’s play. “Guys have to play at a way higher level and certainly it’s the whole group.”
Mantha signed a four-year, $22.8 million contract in the offseason. He was a restricted free agent, and many analysts suspected a big offensive season was forthcoming.
But Mantha has yet to get going, as has been the case with many Wings offensively (Namestinikov, Sam Gagner, Valtteri Filppula, Mathias Brome are all looking for their first points).
“Again, to me, to shoulder it on one person is not fair,” Blashill said. “Our whole team has to be better."
More checking needed
The Red Wings weren’t a lot of things Sunday, but one for sure was not being physical.
Against a smaller Chicago team, the Wings didn’t enforce their will enough during Sunday’s 6-2 loss and basically both losses in the two-game weekend series.
“It’s playing the game, playing through people and making it hard on a team,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “They’re finishing (checks) on us whatever chance they got. We have to keep it simple and play through bodies and just compete and engage in battles and win our net-front and their net-front.
“We have to have guys go out there and play physical like they want to be here. They (Blackhawks) dictated the play. They have some smaller forwards and we let them do what they wanted. We have to find a way to battle.”
Blashill felt the Wings weren’t as physically engaged in Chicago as they were the opening four games at Little Caesars Arena.
“We were much better than that (at home),” Blashill said. “To me, it’s an indication of your compete and sacrifice level, and what we did in these two games wasn’t good enough. It was a fact and we have to way better.”
The Wings continue to be without six regulars in the lineup — forwards Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina, Sam Gagner and Adam Erne and defenseman Jon Merrill, all on COVID-19 protocol, and Darren Helm due to injury.
Helm, who made his season debut Friday, is day-to-day, said Blashill. Forwards Givani Smith and Taro Hirose both made their season debuts — defenseman Alex Biega was a healthy scratch — as Blashill returned to a 12 forwards/six defensemen look after going 11-and-7 Friday.
...Tyler Bertuzzi scored two power-play goals Sunday for all the Wings' offense. The Wings had only scored once on the power play going into Sunday's game.
"Our power play needed to be way better," Bertuzzi said. "That's going to win us some games and if we can get going, we'll win a lot more games. It was good to get those two power-play goals."
…Chicago forward Pius Suter became the 29th player in NHL history to score his first three, or more, career goals in the same game. Suter scored three goals in the victory.
…United Center is becoming an unfriendly place for the Red Wings, having lost 10 of the last 12 games in Chicago.