Mantha goes to school on Van Riemsdyk
Anthony Mantha will get another up-close lesson in the player that Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill believes he can become Saturday as the Wings face off with James Van Riemsdyk and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
One day earlier in the season, Blashill sat Mantha down in his office and together, they watched video of Van Riemsdyk potting goal after goal from his office located in front of the enemy net.
“He’s probably one of the best net-front presences,” Mantha acknowledged of the Toronto left-winger to Detroitredwings.com. “I don’t know exactly how many goals he has by tipping pucks or being in front of the goalie, but it’s quite impressive. He’s always at the right place and the goalie always needs to look around him.”
Mantha admits that even on game night against the Leafs, he will study the work of Van Riemsdyk from his vantage point on the Detroit bench.
“When they get a power play, or even five on five, you tend to look at where he is and what he does in front of that net,” Mantha said.
Leading the Wings with 23 goals, Mantha has netted many of his tallies from that same locale, and Blashill has gone to great lengths to emphasize to Mantha that by increasing his presence around the net, he’ll only add significantly to his goal output and put himself into Van Riemsdyk territory in terms of consistent production.
Van Riemsdyk’s next goal will be his 200th in the NHL. He’s topped 20 goals in three seasons and 30 in two other campaigns, netting a career-high 34 tallies so far this season.
“James van Riemsdyk is a guy we’ve talked to Anthony lots about,” Blashill said. “I think JVR’s got as good hands around the net for a big guy and makes lots of plays, makes their power play extraordinarily dangerous.
“Lots of penalty kills want to leave the net-front guy to the goalie. He’s a tough guy to leave alone with the goalie because of how dangerous he is in those areas. I think over the years if you look at JVR’s production, it’s been excellent, and it’s been noted lately without lots of minutes.”
There’s the other lesson the Wings seek to emphasize when paralleling Van Riemsdyk to Mantha - how he maximizes his productivity to ice time ratio. Skating 14:49 per game, Van Riemsdyk is the first NHLer since the 2005-06 season to pot 30 goals while playing less than 15 minutes a night.
Mantha has played much more, averaging 17:16 per game.
“That’s what net front does,” Blashill said. “If you can get great at the net front you can score lots of – I don’t want to say easy goals – but that’s where the goals come from. So I think it’s a guy that certainly Mantha can learn from.
“I think one of the big things is he’s scored lots of goals standing in front of the goalie, and I think when you learn to embrace that as a player – I don’t think it was a natural thing for him – they’ve got guy in van Riemsdyk who consistently scores around 30 because he’s real good in front of the net.
“I think Anthony is hopefully seeing that, just by being in front of the net you can increase your goal totals a ton, so I think it’s a good reinforcement of what that net presence and that spot on the power play means.”
Follow me on Twitter @asktheduffer