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Capitals Want More From Mantha: ‘Our Team’s Different When He’s On’



Capitals forward Anthony Mantha

Washington Capitals forward Anthony Mantha found himself on the breakaway late in Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, and with the team leading by one, he had a chance to put the final nail in the coffin. However, he couldn’t capitalize, and it was a glaring example of his recent struggles that Washington wants resolved sooner rather than later.

After a significant shoulder injury and subsequent surgery interrupted his first full year as a member of the Capitals last season, he came into this season 100 percent healthy and ready to make an impact, something the team needed with top-6 forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and Connor Brown all hitting the injured list. However, the year’s been inconsistent at best, as he has just six goals and six assists through all 27 games this season.

The Capitals don’t think they’ve seen the best of Mantha yet. And going forward, the team expects more from the 28-year-old, who came over at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Jakub Vrana and high picks.

“He should be a big part of our offense,” general manager Brian MacLellan said.

Mantha has just one goal in his last 11 games. And though he has gotten some good looks on the third line with Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson, he hasn’t been able to capitalize on some of those high-danger chances.

“Our line, we’ve had opportunities to score one, two goals in so many games, and we just haven’t really been rewarded,” Eller said, then cited his linemate. “Like, Mantha’s had like, I don’t know, five breakaways in the last two weeks.”

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“Usually, guys that score goals will find away,” head coach Peter Laviolette had also said of Mantha back on Nov. 25.

There are also times when the 6-5 forward isn’t as noticeable and when he hasn’t exactly played up to his top-6 potential with Washington. The chemistry has lacked in some areas, and It is something that management has on its radar, and wants to see Mantha change quickly.

“He’s a big, strong forward. You can see it. When his game’s on, he dominates the game with size and skill,” MacLellan explained. “There are periods where it hasn’t been there.”

Going forward, the Capitals have faith that Mantha can turn things around.

“As a teammate, he’s one of the best teammates I’ve had,” Nicolas Aube-Kubel said of Mantha, who he played with in the QMJHL with Val d’Or. “It’s nice how he creates some scoring chances.”

Mantha is the fourth highest-paid forward on the team. Taking that and the everchanging playoff race and current standings into account, No. 39 needs to step it up. There’s still plenty of time left to prove his worth and show what he can do, but he’ll also have to earn his minutes, which haven’t come easy of late. For Washington, though, Mantha living up to his potential will be huge on a number of levels as the team looks to recover from early season struggles.

“Our team is different when he’s on,” MacLellan added.