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Can Mantha Gain Step, Expand Role With Capitals In Year 2? He Believes So

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Capitals forward Anthony Mantha

ARLINGTON, V.A. — Last summer, Anthony Mantha’s usual offseason routine was on the backburner. The former Detroit Red Wings found himself back in Michigan, packing up his longtime home and preparing to make the full-time move to D.C. in order to finalize his transition to the Washington Capitals, where he’d landed at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline.

Fast forward to now and the 27-year-old is no longer living the hotel life, but he’s still getting into the swing of things with the Capitals after a bit of a difficult 2021-22 campaign. And, with no more moves, no furniture to build and his shoulder nearly fully recovered, Mantha is ready to return to the basics and back to his natural routine this offseason back in Montreal — and he hopes it’ll pay off.

“It’s never easy,” Mantha said, looking back at the season that saw him suffer a separated shoulder that held him out for nearly four months. “Being out that long to a lot of ups and downs. I was happy with my play here and there, then at other times, it was a little harder. So it’s part of the season, especially when it’s that long, but hopefully next year, I come in and I finish the season with 82 games at the end.”

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It was tough for Mantha, who got off to a strong start with two goals and four assists through the team’s first 10 games before his injury and surgery. When he finally drew back into the lineup in March, it took him a couple of games to get back in the rhythm, but he then went on to put up points in seven of the next 10 games. He would then see some inconsistency, but find some chemistry with Lars Eller toward the end of the year.

“I think I played some really good hockey at the end here,” Mantha acknowledged. “Obviously maybe the numbers aren’t as good as I would expect… it’s a lot of 5-on-5 and I just need to work on maybe creating a little bit more in [special teams] situations.”

Ultimately, he finished the regular season with nine goals and 14 assists through 37 games — which would have put him on pace for 51 points in a full 82-game season — and he also added four assists in six playoff games against the Florida Panthers.

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Looking ahead, Mantha wants to continue to expand his role with Washington and also see the collective group make it past the first round. The Capitals haven’t won a series since hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2018.

“I don’t know yet what it takes to win. Obviously, everyone’s so intense, everyone’s super hyped to play playoffs,” Mantha said. “I think we started this series [against Florida] on the right note and like I said, it could have been one or two different plays that would have changed the whole outcome of this series. But at the end of the day, you gain experience from it, and you learn for the years to come.”

When it comes to specifics that he wants to add to his game, the Quebec native said he wants to work on his decision-making and play on the forecheck. He will focus on that, and more parts of his all-around play, when he trains back home this summer with the likes of Jonathan Bernier and Alexis Lafreniere.

“It’s just creating, O-zone time, controlling the puck. I feel maybe in playoffs, I was kind of rushing a bit if you don’t get the puck and you’re trying to make a play right away instead of taking that extra second to make the right one. A little bit of experience comes into play there.”

With his training plans set, a baby girl on the way due in October and Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson out to open the season, 2022-23 appears ready to be the biggest year of his career — and life — yet. And he’s ready to embrace it.

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