Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha spoke with the media today regarding his issues in terms of goal-scoring and overall play. Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News already filed a notebook article regarding the big man, and MLive’s Ansar Khan noted that Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill has a theory about Mantha’s skating:
“I thought Anthony a year ago started the year really skating and when he skates and he stops he’s a great player,” Blashill said. “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 a lot, he’s an excellent player. He’s 6-foot-5, he can move well, he’s got good hands, he can pass, he can shoot.
“He was able to play a long time and have great success without having to move a lot. He could basically stand still and dominate the Quebec Major Junior League. Over a period of years, he’s worked hard to break those habits and replace them with new ones.
“He’s really big, so when he’s not skating, he’s an easy target, but I think he cares a bunch, he wants to be great, and I know he wants to win, and he wants to play better than this. I believe he will play better than this starting tomorrow night.”
Update: Here’s more from Blashill on the Wings’ lack of secondary scoring, namely from Anthony Mantha and Vladislav Namestnikov, via the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“The way I’ve always looked at it from a coaching perspective is, you want to look out and see your team look like they know what they are doing, look like they are organized, look like they know how to react in different situations,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “There is chaos in games that goes beyond every particular system structure — you can’t say, this is going to happen. That’s where hockey smarts play a big factor.
“Ultimately I thought we were as porous defensively as we have been all season. We gave up too much easy ice. How can I handle that? The best way is to work to correct it and that’s what we worked on – through videos, through meetings individually, and through going on the ice and practicing.”
Namestnikov was brought in to help with secondary scoring, but he has yet to tally a point, despite having chances. Blashill met with both Mantha and Namestnikov in Dallas on Monday and emphasized good habits.
“They both need to produce and certainly a guy like Mantha is relied upon to produce a lot, but I don’t think he should judge his game on a nightly basis solely on points,” Blashill said. “In both cases, we’ve focused more on their play away from the puck being where it needed to be. At times it has been, at times it hasn’t been.
“There are other guys as well to make sure they understand let’s focus on play away from the puck. If you check well, you have the puck way more and you can utilize your skill set. That’s been the message to really the whole team, but certainly those two guys.”