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With Confidence Level ‘Very Low,’ Mantha Hitting Reset For Final Stretch With Capitals

Anthony Mantha opens up about his struggles, where he’s at mentally and how he’s approaching the final stretch of the season with the Washington Capitals.



ARLINGTON, V.A. — For Anthony Mantha, the NHL All-Star Break couldn't have come at a better time. The Washington Capitals winger was able to get away from the game for a bit and focus on family as he, his wife and four-month-old daughter, Naomie, travelled to visit family and then finished off the vacation in Florida. As he took in the sun and had time to catch his breath, he got time to not only think about the season so far but to prepare for the final playoff push.

For Mantha, that time to himself was crucial following a forgetful January and the hardest stretch of his still-budding career yet.

"Let's just say this break helped a lot," he put it simply. "I was able to kind of reflect and press on the reset button and come back stronger. Obviously, it wasn't really my month. It was pretty hard, I've been working mentally, and here I am."

After long bouts of inconsistency and struggles to open the first half of the season, which saw him record nine goals and 14 assists through 42 games, Mantha was a healthy scratch for the first time in his Capitals tenure and watched from the press box for four of six games as Sonny Milano and more retained their spots in the lineup with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson returning from offseason surgeries for Washington.

For Mantha, it was a "wake-up call" and one where he had to address his work ethic and numerous areas of his game as he'd struggled to find the back of the net. For head coach Peter Laviolette, it was not about the points, but bringing the same effort and level of play on a nightly basis.

"He's just got to be consistent with his game. He can be a real force and a real influence in the game," Laviolette said. "Just trying to find consistency with that."

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Mantha cycled back in for a few games as Laviolette continued to cycle through combinations, and he's been back in the mix since Wilson and Nic Dowd went down with lower-body injuries later in the month. Still, in his final seven games before the break, he had just one assist. He has not scored since netting a goal on Dec. 31 against the Montreal Canadiens in a dominant 9-2 win.

Looking back, the 28-year-old said that the scratches and woes through January as a whole took a mental toll, one that he's still struggling with coming out of the break.

"You asked me where's my confidence level. I mean, the honest answer is very low," Mantha said. "I won't lie, just working on it. Like I said, it's a reset."

Getting that confidence back will depend on several factors for the 6-5, 234-pound forward, who not only has to regain his confidence but also faces pressure down the stretch. It's crunch time now for him and the Capitals, who need to finish out the season strong to secure a playoff spot with the standings tight.

"I think if we start putting some wins together, obviously things are going to start following a lot better," Mantha noted. "And team chemistry, team confidence is going to go up. So I mean, saying that, everyone's individual confidence is going to go up."

All he can do now, though, is get his rhythm back, though he knows that it's easier said than done.

"I think it's everything," Mantha explained regarding what aspects of his play he has to improve. "All about the game, all about the physical aspects, but also, the mental side."

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Mantha returned from the break skating on the fourth line with Lars Eller and Garnet Hathaway. It's not an easy position for Mantha, who was initially brought in to provide top-6 scoring depth, to be in at this point in his career, but he appeared to have good chemistry on that trio. He did not play against the San Jose Sharks due to illness. Mantha has one left on his contract that carries an AAV of $5.75 million.

"I'm taking this as a brand new season of 30, whatever games we have left, and my focus is there," Mantha said. "It's kind of a new start, and I'm ready to roll."

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