Hockey

Former Habs ahead Lars Eller has discovered his identification with the Washington Capitals

TAMPA, Fla. — Why did it take toiling within the league for 9 lengthy seasons earlier than Lars Eller lastly had a breakthrough season? Properly, the simple reply is cash.

The 29-year-old, who had by no means scored greater than 30 factors, entered this season in a contract yr. That would clarify why the Eller all of a sudden put up a career-best 18 objectives and 38 factors within the common season, one thing that the Washington Capitals rewarded him with a five-year contract extension value US$17.5 million in February.

Nevertheless it solely tells half the story.

Traded from the staff that drafted him 13th total in 2007 and misused for years in Montreal, the place Eller admitted he “bounced round — loads,” the Danish ahead has lastly discovered a house in Washington, D.C., the place his position retains increasing.

With Nicklas Backstrom nursing a hand damage, Eller was bumped as much as the second line the place he logged 20 minutes and 35 seconds — probably the most of any ahead from both staff — within the 4-2 win in Recreation 1 of the Japanese Convention closing. Eller scored the third objective of the sport when Alex Ovechkin fanned on a shot on the ability play that ended up Eller’s stick. It was his fourth objective and eighth level of the playoffs.

“I believe I undoubtedly discovered my identification as a participant that perhaps once I was in Montreal I misplaced that at occasions,” stated Eller. “And now I’m paying extra minutes when Nicky is out, however I play the identical method, even when I’m on the primary line, second line, third line. You go on the market with the identical mindset. The mindset doesn’t change. I performed that very same sport, however I believe I’m a participant who’s a superb two-way participant. I can play energy play, short-handed, in every kind of conditions.

“I sort of misplaced that identification (in Montreal) with what sort of sport I wanted to play to achieve success. I bounced round loads. I imply loads. Whereas I’ve had much more stability right here.”

It was in Montreal the place Eller spent 5 years of middling success. A part of it was misplaced expectations. As a high draft decide, it was straightforward to have a look at Eller with top-line potential. However, just like the Canadiens’ frustration with Alex Galchenyuk, the offence by no means got here. He didn’t know who he was, as a result of coaches and administration couldn’t determined what participant they needed him to be.

It wasn’t till he arrived in Washington, the place the calls for on him have been extra exact and to the purpose, in addition to extra life like. Taking part in behind Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, he was lastly slotted in an acceptable position.

“I at all times thought I had good skills, however it’s about studying find out how to use your skills to the very best,” stated Eller, who appeared to take a stab at his former staff in praising the profitable setting in Washington.

“The tradition is so vital. That they had such a powerful tradition right here. When you’ve got the fitting mindset and also you wish to be taught, you’re going to turn into a superb participant. And a superb staff goes to turn into an incredible staff when you’ve nice leaders. Simply watching Backstrom and Kuznetsov, I realized a ton. They’ve a calmness to their sport.”

Now that Backstrom is out and Eller’s minutes and position has elevated, that calmness has been on show as he matches up in opposition to Steven Stamkos and Tampa Bay’s high ahead line.

“He’s been nice all yr,” stated Capitals ahead T.J. Oshie. “He sort of falls within the shadow of our different two centremen, who’re world-class gamers, however Lars has been a really massive a part of our staff’s success this yr.”

“He’s a man who can play first-, second-, third-line — it doesn’t matter the place you place him, he’s received numerous talent, loads to present,” stated Capitals ahead Jay Beagle. “He’s taking part in a task proper now the place he’s taking part in in opposition to the highest line and doing an unbelievable job. He did that in opposition to Pitt the final two video games. No shock to us.”

So, does this imply that Eller has designs on rising his position? Not fairly. Whereas he’s proud of the elevated ice time and added accountability, he is aware of his position. And Washington does, too.

“I don’t suppose the mindset modifications loads,” stated Eller. “I attempt to play the identical sport the way in which I’ve the entire yr. I wish to rating objectives, I wish to create offence. It doesn’t actually change loads. I do know I’m going to be taking part in a pair extra minutes. And as a staff, we all know we now have to step up.

“It’s a superb feeling. I embrace that. That’s what I wish to be. It’s the playoffs and also you wish to be on the market as a lot as attainable.”

BEAGLE BARKING LOUDEST

Lars Eller has scored twice as many objectives as teammate Jay Beagle on this yr’s playoffs. However Beagle nonetheless owns bragging rights.

“Me and (Beagle) have an incredible relationship really,” stated Eller, who has 4 objectives to Beagle’s two. “We push one another loads. We had a scoring competitors (in observe) the final 4 or 5 months and we really scored extra within the video games, too. You may feed off his vitality a bit and I believe he feeds off me as properly.

“What are you able to say about him? He’s a coronary heart and soul man.”

Each Eller and Beagle scored in Recreation 1 of the Japanese Convention closing. In the case of practices, Beagle has had barely extra success.

“I believe it’s shut,” stated Eller. “I believe he may be up one in practices however should you take the video games in account, I’ll be up a number of.”

In fact, Eller is averaging greater than 4 minutes per video games.

“That helps,” he stated, “however (Beagle) would say that’s no excuse.”

E mail: mtraikos@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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