The Detroit Red Wings were able to get a huge monkey off their backs on Saturday night, defeating the Florida Panthers 4-3 in overtime for their first victory of the season.
While this season for Detroit has all the makings of a third consecutive playoff miss, that doesn’t mean that players can’t be performing. One such player on the Red Wings that has been largely invisible so far is Anthony Mantha, their leading goal scorer from last year.
With just one goal and two assists and team-worst minus-11 rating in his first eight games, Mantha has seen his ice time declined and bumped down to the fourth line. Ahead of Detroit’s matchup with Carolina on Monday night, head coach Jeff Blashill acknowledged the young forward’s struggles.
“I don’t know why it’s a recurring theme but it’s something we’re going to keep working at,” Blashill said after Monday’s morning skate. “I think he’s a good kid who wants to be a real good player and our job is keep trying to do everything we can to help him get there.”
“This isn’t something that he doesn’t want to change,” Blashill continued. “He wants to. He recognizes that to you guys, he recognizes that to me. He’s got to find a way to get himself moving on a more consistent basis.”
Mantha himself knows that the team needs more out of him, and that he needs to get going in a hurry if he’s going to meet his self-acknowledged goal of scoring 30 goals this year. He signed a two-year contract and is viewed as one of the main young pieces to the Red Wings core.
“If I did know the answer, obviously I wouldn’t be here today and we wouldn’t be talking about it right now,” Mantha said. “I had a meeting with Blash the other morning and we talked about it. That’s why right now I’m on the fourth line — I need to get my game go back up the ladder.
“It’s just being intense, winning battles, using my body to win those battles. Putting the effort in a little bit more in games. I need to win his confidence back and that’s the main thing I’m trying to do right now.”