'I can redeem myself': Red Wings' Anthony Mantha fighting to crawl out of early-season slump

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Anthony Mantha has a mental checklist of things he needs to do on the ice, and for Mantha, that checklist determines if he’s had a good game or not.

The Wings have had six games this season. How many of those games has Mantha felt, coming off the ice, he’s had a good game?

Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha

“One,” said Mantha, during Monday’s Zoom chat with the media. “The afternoon game against Columbus (Jan. 18), the one we won in overtime.”

He has a power-play goal in the 3-2 OT win at Little Caesars Arena. That, in itself, goes a long way to show how much of a frustrating start to this season it’s been for Mantha.

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“Oh yeah,” Mantha said. “It’s not something that I like, to not be involved and help the team. I’m someone that’s hard on myself and I want to get better and that’s the mentality I’m going in with.

“Today was a good day at practice and it’s fun when we play every other night, so I can redeem myself as quick as (Tuesday) night.”

In a sluggish start to this season, Sunday’s loss in Chicago was a personal low point for Mantha.

An attempted clearing pass landed right on the stick of Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy, who promptly scored late in the second period.

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Then in the opening seconds of the third period, Mattias Janmark got inside position on Mantha near the position and converted Patrick Kane’s set up for an easy goal.

From there, Mantha only played one more shift the remaining 19 minutes.

“We’re not going to hide from it, it wasn’t a good game,” said Mantha, who felt many different emotions while sitting and watching. “A little bit of everything. Obviously, I could sit back and be disappointed in myself, but today is a new day and I have to get better on the ice and tomorrow is a new game. I’ll make everything possible in my power not to be sat again this year or in the future.

“I just have to get my game going and do what I do best.”

Mantha has one goal and two assists through six games, with a minus-5 plus-minus rating. The offense hasn’t been there, the impact on games has been limited, and the consistent hard, forceful skating has been largely missing.

“I wish I had the answer,” Mantha said. “I watched clips the last couple of days and I had a meeting with Blash (coach Jeff Blashill). It’s just a matter of getting my feet moving and being intense in battles and everything will line up from there.”

Mantha met with Blashill before Monday’s practice in Dallas.

“He wants to see the Anthony that was playing last year at the start of the season and I want to see that guy come back ASAP,” Mantha said. “It was just to be a little more physical, stopping on pucks and winning those one-on-one battles, and like we said, skating during the game.”

Blashill has been steadfast in saying Mantha needs to consistently skate and keep moving his feet.

But this time, Blashill made a point of telling Mantha (and Vladislav Namestinikov, who is also struggling offensively) not to look at points so much.

Blashill wants both players to focus on their games away from the puck, and many times offense comes from being in the right spots defensively and doing the correct things on the defensive end.

Blashill mentioned skating was one reason Mantha began last season so well.

“When he skates he closes ground on people, he forechecks well, he tracks well, all those things create situations where he has the puck a lot and when he has the puck, he’s an excellent hockey player,” Blashill said.

“Anthony cares a bunch. He wants to be a great player. It doesn’t always manifest itself on the ice, and he’s really big so when he’s not skating he’s an easy target, but he cares a bunch and he wants to be great and I know he wants to win and wants to play better than this.”

Blashill broke apart the Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi line in an effort to spark all three.  It has worked with Larkin and Bertuzzi, who could be skating together again Tuesday against Dallas.

"I just have to work my way back," Mantha said. "He put us three on three different lines and then Bert started playing better and Larks is playing better and they're back together. So, hopefully, I'll start playing better."

Mantha admits he might be thinking too much on the ice right now. The goal is to simplify things to get back to where he was much of last season, and in the past.

"If I bring it back to simple battles and shots and being involved in plays, things are going to line up for me," Mantha said.

Red Wings at Dallas Stars

Faceoff: 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, American Airlines Center, Dallas

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 

Outlook:  The Red Wings (2-4) visit the Stanley Cup finalist Stars (2-0) for a two-game series...Dallas got a late start to the season after COVID protocol delays but swept Nashville last weekend...The Wings will continue to be without F's Darren Helm, Sam Gagner, Filip Zadina, Robby Fabbri, Adam Erne and D Jon Merrill.


Twitter: @tkulfan