Red Wings hopeful as Anthony Mantha starts to heat up

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Is Anthony Mantha about to go on one of his hot streaks?

The Red Wings have been waiting for one of Mantha’s goal-scoring binges all season. Signs seem to point toward one coming.

Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha has three goals in his last five games.

Sunday’s goal with 10 seconds left in the Wings’ 2-1 loss to Carolina, was Mantha’s third goal in five games and second in two games, so it’s still in the infant stages.

But the eye test indicates Mantha is about to finally post the type of numbers the Wings have been waiting for.

“I hope so,” coach Jeff Blashill said Monday about whether Mantha is about ready to surge. “Anthony is one of those guys who when he feels good about himself, his game goes to a whole another level, and he’s feeling good about himself and confident.”

This hasn’t been the type of season Mantha has envisioned, thus far.

In 28 games, Mantha has 14 points (eight goals, six assists), has been a healthy scratch in one game, been benched or demoted in others, and hasn’t played to the level of the four-year, $22.8 million ($5.7 million salary cap hit) contract signed in the offseason.

“You always put pressure on yourself,” Mantha said Monday on a Zoom call with media. “Everyone competes hard in this room and everyone wants to win. Everyone puts pressure, and obviously when things aren’t going as well, you might put a little extra (pressure) which sometimes can backfire real quick.”

Mantha’s season went off the rails just 10 days into the season when he was benched in Chicago in the third period after two consecutive glaring defensive mistakes.

But, lately, Mantha has been checking all the boxes on what he needs to do on the ice, and his game has noticeably improved.

“Hopefully it’s going to keep rolling,” Mantha said. “The confidence is all right, the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing way better. Hopefully I can keep it going until the end of the season.

“Lately I’ve been playing a lot better, hard on battles and had way more scoring chances in the last couple of games than earlier in the year. I’m trying to build off that. As a line, Fabs (Robby Fabbri), (Dylan) Larking and myself, we had 12 shots (on net), that’s something to build off of, and just trying to score more goals.”

Getting reunited with Larkin may have been a key ingredient in Mantha’s turnaround.

Larkin’s speed and ability to draw defenders, passing ability and creating space for Mantha, seem to be sparking Mantha.

And if nothing else, the two simply seem to have good chemistry on the ice, and have for multiple seasons.

“It’s a different game,” said Mantha, of playing on a line with Larkin. “Dylan brings so much when he carries the puck. He’s going to be flying and trying to find those passing lanes. He loves to shoot, so there are those extra rebounds.

“He just brings the pace of the shift to another level. It’s fun. It gets you skating even more, following him, trying to get open. Fabs (Fabbri) is kind of the same thing, he’s quick and moves quick and can pass and shoot.

“It’s been fun to play with those two.”

Brome sits

Mathias Brome has been a healthy scratch the last two games, and it basically comes down to a lack of production.

Brome has one point — a goal — in 24 games.

Blashill is pleased with variables Brome brings to the lineup. But in the end, the lack of offense has become a factor.

"I like Mathias, he's played hard, he does a lot of stuff good, plays the right way," Blashill said. "I don't really like talking about this because I generally try to focus on process, but the reality is production. He's had one goal in (24) games and production is something; it matters."

Blashill feels there is offense within Brome to be brought out.

"Certainly he shows it in flashes," Blashill said. "He was close a lot early, and unfortunately he didn't get it and all of a sudden you lose some opportunities. He wasn't on the power play and not playing quite as much and it's hard to get the same number of opportunities, and that hurt him a little bit.

"But there's offense there. But the thing is, guys have to prove it."

Long time brewing

Mantha's fight with Tampa Bay's Erik Cernak on Thursday was something that had been festering for over a year.

"It was ongoing for two years, back and forth,” Mantha said. “He kind of gave me an elbow to the face, and I punched him back and he threw a punch. We decided to go.

"It’s part of hockey, and I’m not going to step down from it.”

Hurricanes at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Red Wings (8-17-4) and Hurricanes (20-6-1) conclude the two-game series…Carolina is on an eight-game win streak. … The Wings likely will be without F Bobby Ryan, who didn’t practice Monday.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan