Capitals’ Anthony Mantha calls healthy scratch a ‘wake-up call’

Mantha calls healthy scratch a ‘wake-up call’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

ARLINGTON, Va. — With the returns of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson on Sunday came a series of roster decisions for the Capitals. They had to open two roster spots, clearing salary cap space and reshuffle a lineup that had produced the NHL’s best record over the last month-plus.

One of the biggest domino effects of those moves proved to be a healthy scratch of Anthony Mantha, the Capitals’ prized midseason acquisition of 2020-21 whose tenure in Washington thus far has been defined by stretches of brilliance between extended scoring droughts. It was the first time he sat out a game for Washington without an injury designation.

“I think I had a good stretch, a bad stretch,” Mantha said at practice Monday. “It’s part of hockey, I don’t think I was playing terrible. Obviously, the minutes were going down, so the decision to play me [9:48] in my last game there so, you kind of knew it was coming.”

Laviolette moved Mantha off the second line and placed him on the fourth-line left wing with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway for Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. He played two games in that spot but his 9:48 of ice time Friday against the Nashville Predators was the fewest minutes of any game he finished healthy with the Capitals since he was acquired.

“These are obviously tough decisions,” Laviolette said Sunday. “There’s 14 forwards now with [Aliaksei] Protas and [Joe] Snively not being here and 14 NHL players that have helped our team be successful. Two of those players are now available coming off of injury and it just made for tough decisions. I have no problem if either one of those guys were in the lineup today, Kubel or Mantha, but they’re not. I had to make decisions, and that’s where I started.”

RELATED: Wilson, Backstrom get legs underneath them in Caps returns

Mantha has scored nine goals with 14 assists in 42 games for the Capitals this season, the same totals he put up in 37 games last year when he missed time with a shoulder injury. He’s averaged 0.58 points per game in his two-and-a-half seasons with Washington after putting up 0.64 over his six years with the Detroit Red Wings.

However, Mantha reflected on his performance in recent weeks and didn’t feel that his offense was the main contributor.

“It’s easy to say now, everyone gets a lot of chances and you don’t score all of them,” Mantha said of whether a few bounces his way could’ve changed things. “So, it could’ve been different. I don’t think it’s necessarily the points and the goals he’s mad about, I think it’s more the rest of the game.”

With 39 games still left on the Capitals’ schedule, it’s likely he gets a chance to reestablish himself in their lineup. Mantha could be back on the ice as soon as Washington’s next game Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. In the meantime, he’s working to improve his work ethic and show his coaches that he can make a better impact.

“I felt good, I mean body-wise, like you said, no injuries, I think it’s the first year in a couple of years that I played the first half of the season without getting injured,” Mantha said. “So, I was pumped for that. Like I said, it’s a slap in the face, maybe a wake-up call and work your way back.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up