As the Washington Capitals continue to navigate the ups and downs of this season, where they appear to be turning the corner one day and then struggling for answers the next, there have also been questions regarding the offense, and lately, several are wondering: what’s going on with Anthony Mantha?
Mantha came over in 2021 in a blockbuster trade for Jakub Vrana with the expectation of adding a spark on the forecheck, specifically the top-6. He couldn’t do much last season due to a long-term shoulder injury. This season is the true test now that he’s fully healthy, and it’s been inconsistent, to say the least.
Of late, Mantha has been silent and unable to find his footing. The 28-year-old has been skating on the third line with Lars Eller and an interchanging forward. Over the last seven games, he has gone without a goal, and he also has no points in his last six outings.
“Usually guys that score goals will find a way,” head coach Peter Laviolette said when asked about Mantha’s struggles.
Through 23 games, he has just five goals and five assists and is a minus-10. He’s tied for the lead among forwards in 5-on-5 goals against (16) and has been on the ice for just nine 5-on-5 goals for.
At times, Mantha will appear to be on his game, generating quite a few high-quality chances and getting pressure going on the forecheck. At others, though, he’s quiet and unable to put himself on the radar. That was the case big time on Saturday, as he took a step back.
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No. 39 was on the ice for three goals against and skated just 12:56 minutes, finishing with two shots. His third line couldn’t get much going in a game where Washington dominated in scoring chances and shot attempts.
For Mantha, the chemistry just doesn’t appear to be there right now, and it doesn’t appear he’s capitalizing on his opportunities. And when he does have chances, he can’t finish on his opportunities, as was the case in Friday’s 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames where he got a couple of breakaway chances.
So, what’s the fix?
Right now, it appears the solution may be switching him to a different line. He and Eller are not working well together, and perhaps he would be able to find a spark with the likes of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Sonny Milano. The only problem is that the Milano-Kuznetsov-Oshie combination has been solid. And, while Mantah could move up to play with Alex Ovechkin and Dylan Strome, Conor Sheary has been a solid complementary winger, and Mantha hasn’t shown a lot of chemistry with Ovechkin over the course of his time in the District.
T.J. Oshie has shown he can play anywhere, and Oshie may also help in bringing some life and secondary scoring to that struggling third line.
Ultimately, that speed and ability that Milano and Kuznetsov play with appear to complement his game.
Still, Mantha would have to capitalize on that opportunity. Top-6 minutes are earned, and he will have to show that he belongs there. That means putting in a full effort for Washington, finishing his chances and keeping up with the pace at both ends for the Capitals.