Detroit Red Wings: Anthony Mantha is performing better than it appears

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

If you have been tuning in to watch the Detroit Red Wings through their first five games of the season, you’ve probably felt that power forward Anthony Mantha is off to a slow start, but it’s not nearly as poor as it appears.

This past offseason Detroit Red Wings General Manager (GM) Steve Yzerman locked up Mantha to a four-year deal that averages $5.7 million per season.  It’s a fair deal for a restricted free agent that’s had a history of failing to remain healthy for the duration of an entire season but has also regularly shown 30-plus goal potential at the NHL level.

To start the season, head coach Jeff Blashill plugged Mantha in on the top line alongside the teams’ newly appointed captain Dylan Larkin and the ‘do it all’ worker bee Tyler Bertuzzi.  After the first few games, Blashill started to fire names into a blender, hoping to find a more balanced attack moving Mantha down with veteran Bobby Ryan and 21-year old Michael Rasmussen.

That’s a line that has become fairly productive behind Ryan’s four goals in four games while averaging less than 15 minutes of ice-time per night.

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The repercussion of splitting up the top line means that Dylan Larkin had been sandwiched between Filip Zadina and the newly acquired Vladislav Namestnikov.  Namestnikov is off to a slow start, but not for lack of chances.

The Russian-born forward had a pair of breakaway chances in Detroit’s season-opener, plus he’s hit a goal post.  Before being entered into the COVID-19 protocol, Zadina had shown a Pavel Datsyuk-like skill-set displaying his quiet thief-like hands beautifully setting up Robby Fabbri and Ryan for a pair of goals.

If you feel that Anthony Mantha is off to a slow start, it’s really not the case when you take a closer look at the Detroit Red Wings sniper through the first five games of the season.

After the first few games, some Red Wings fans felt Mantha isn’t giving it a full effort on the ice.  Remember, Mantha is a big-bodied winger, and his large strides can be deceiving.  At times it may appear as though Mantha is not skating to his abilities, but unlike some of the shorter players, his one stride is almost like two of someone like Dylan Larkin.

Although Mantha has only recorded one goal, he’s chipped in with a pair of assists totaling three points thus far in 2021.  After the first handful of games, Mantha has provided the Detroit Red Wings with a stellar Corsi For Percentage of 55.2%. That is nearly 10% better than the team average.

So understanding Mantha’s possession stats are nearly 2% greater than his career average suggests the forward is close to breaking out.  Mantha is also playing about a minute and a half more than his career average in 2021, with 64.3% of his five-on-five shifts beginning in the offensive zone.  As you can see, Blashill is giving his 6-foot-5 winger an opportunity to succeed; it’s just a matter of time.

Like last season, the Detroit Red Wings power-play has continued to struggle in 2021, only providing the team with a dull 8.3% conversion rate (league average 21.33%), scoring one goal on 12 opportunities.  Mantha scored the lone PP goal.  Last season the Red Wings produced an awful power play that scored at just a 14.8% clip.

Although Mantha only has recorded one goal, he’s a constant threat while on the ice, and these possession numbers give us hope the goals and his scoring chances will follow.

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To be somewhat successful in 2021, the Red Wings need Anthony Mantha to score, and he has the talent to record 20 goals in a 56 game season.