The month of March has been very kind to the Capitals, as they’ve essentially cemented a playoff spot and turned around their worst stretch of the season.
And over the last few weeks, their story cannot be told without talking about the play of Anthony Mantha.
With the opening goal Friday in Buffalo, the Capitals’ second line left winger scored his fifth goal in 11 games. He has not only played well on the ice since his return from shoulder surgery in early March, but he’s helped balance out the Capitals’ lines as well.
Against the Sabres, the trio of Mantha, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson outshot their opponents 10-2 at five-on-five. As the Capitals look to settle their lineup combinations with a month left to play before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin, getting another scoring line rolling in addition to the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov would be a major plus.
Considering how Mantha has played, and also what he’s added to the stat sheet, it’s a boost the Capitals sorely needed.
With T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd out of the lineup due to injury, the Capitals have had to play 11 forwards for the last two games as the injury bug, which was once thought to be behind the team, has come back once again.
In just 21 games this season, the Capitals moved to 13-3-5 with Mantha in the lineup — a 121-point pace over 82 games. Certainly, it’s unfair to put that, even a little bit, on Mantha’s shoulders. But it’s true that with him in the lineup, the Capitals are a much better team than without him.
And the more Mantha continues to put points up, the more the Capitals will feel comfortable in moving their lines around to try and find what works best for them.
There will certainly be more lineup juggling down the stretch, but the duo of Mantha and Backstrom at wing and center has stuck together since the Capitals traded for Mantha a year ago. And with a significant injury clearly in the rearview, it’s safe to say this is likely the best hockey Mantha has played in Washington.