Welcome back, Anthony Mantha.
After missing 20 games and 28 of the last 32, the 25-year-old forward was back on the ice for the Detroit Red Wings, who lost 3-2 Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
The loss came just two days after upsetting the NHL-leading Boston Bruins, but scores are arguably irrelevant for the Red Wings these days. Sure, blowout losses won’t make Hockeytown fans happy, but in large part, it’s more about player development than anything else.
Anyone associated with the Red Wings organization – whether it’s fans, players, management, etc. – know it isn’t fun right now looking up at the entire NHL in the standings. Seats are empty inside Little Caesars Arena, there isn’t any buzz around the city and it’s already a lost season statistically.
But seeing a light at the end of the tunnel – even if it’s the tiniest bit of light that’s so small you have to squint to see it – makes you feel better.
That feeling, my friends, is hope.
And while it wasn’t a total surprise given his past successes, Mantha was that tiniest bit of light called hope Tuesday night.
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The star forward showed no signs of rust in the loss, assisting on Darren Helm’s first goal 27 seconds into the game. He then followed it up with another nifty pass – this one right out front of the net – for Helm’s second goal of the game, giving the Wings its second lead of the night before squandering it in the third.
When Mantha is in the lineup, it “hits” different. That’s what the kids say, at least. Good players make other players better, and that’s what Mantha can do…when he’s on the ice.
It was just one game, and Mantha isn’t going to make Helm a 20-goal scorer or anything preposterous like that, but his presence was felt.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Helm had six goals in 54 games. Against the Sabres, he netted two – both setup by Mantha.
We know he can score, he’s capable of passing and Tuesday night he was that tiniest bit of light called hope.