Looking to make the leap: Anthony Mantha

21 Comments

Ever since being selected 20th overall by Detroit at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Anthony Mantha has been focused on one goal:

Make the Red Wings.

It’s what Mantha aimed to do during his first NHL training camp last fall — but fell short, getting returned to QMHJL Val-d’Or — and it’s what he’s aiming to do again this year, albeit with more experience under his belt.

Mantha, 19, cemented himself as a dynamic goalscorer in junior hockey last year, recording his second straight 50-goal campaign by potting 57 in 57 games for the Foreurs — then continued that pace by netting another 24 in 24 playoff games.

In short, the kid can put pucks in the net.

Mantha also racked up 11 points in seven games for Canada at the World Juniors, and earned huge praise from Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer.

“He’s unique. He’s fun to watch,” Fischer said of Mantha, per NHL.com. “The bigger the games, the bigger he plays, the bigger his performance, the more he wants to win. He loves playing games.

“He knows that he’s going to get a chance [at training camp]. He’s going to get a top-six forward chance in camp and he’s excited about it.”

Making the leap will prove difficult. Several factors are working against Mantha, the first being his lack of pro hockey experience. He’s never played a day in the AHL, and for an organization like Detroit — which has consistently benefited from players maturing in the minors — a year riding buses in the “A” might be the preferred approach, developmentally speaking.

Then there’s Detroit’s slew of forwards up front. Per CapGeek, the Red Wings have 14 forwards on NHL contracts; the club is also waiting on word from veteran Daniel Alfredsson, who may or may not return this season.

It doesn’t sound like either of these factors has lessened Mantha’s desire to crack the bigs, though. In July, he re-iterated what he said last summer — it’s the NHL or bust.

“If you ask me, I think I am [ready],” Mantha said, per MLive.com. “At the end of the summer, I’ll be a few pounds heavier. I think I can play there. But as I mentioned, it’s (about) coming to camp, being ready and we’ll see.

“The skill level is there. I’m a tall, big guy. I think I can play there.”

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

Leave a comment

Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

Getty
Leave a comment

Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

2 Comments

One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.

WATCH LIVE: Game 2 for Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

Getty
Leave a comment

P.K. Subban certainly made his presence felt to begin the Predators’ series vs. the Blues. Leon Draisaitl stole the spotlight in helping the Oilers beat the Ducks in their Game 1. Who will step up in Game 2 of each series? We’ll find out soon.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (Preds lead 1-0)

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Check out the highlights from Nashville’s 4-3 win in Game 1.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks (Oilers lead 1-0)

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Check out the highlights from Edmonton’s 5-3 win in Game 1.