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The Capitals’ struggles over the last several games have been a blemish on an otherwise strong season, and have highlighted a number of issues the team and its coaching staff will be looking to address for the rest of the season. Despite the defensive struggles and offensive letdowns, center Lars Eller has been one of the team’s most productive players during that span.
Prior to the All-Star break, Eller had recorded 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 49 games played, with a plus-4 rating, a 9.7% shot percentage, and averaging 17:15 of ice time a night. In the seven games since the Caps returned from the break, Eller has recorded six points (three goals, three assists), with a 17.6% Shot Percentage and averaging slightly less ice time (16:44). But just how effective has No. 20 been for the Capitals during a seven-game stretch in which they have gone 3-4-0?
At all strengths, Eller is tied with T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov for second in Goals Scored, ranks sixth in Assists, fifth in Shot Percentage, second in takeaways, and seventh in Faceoff Percentage (43.36%). At 5-on-5, Eller ranks second in Goals Scored, and is tied with six other players for the most points (4) at 5-on-5. In terms of Shot Percentage at even-strength, Eller has an impressive 23.08, which ranks him fourth overall among Capitals skaters.
Eller’s ability to protect the puck in traffic and maintain control has also seen him tie Garnet Hathaway for the team lead in penalties drawn with four, and tie with John Carlson for the most takeaways on the team with five. Overall, Eller has 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) on the season, putting him on pace to break his career-high of 38 points and 18 goals, set during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup-winning season of 2017-18. Eller currently ranks eighth on the Caps in Points and third in Faceoff Win Percentage, having won 52.5% of his draws this season.
While the Capitals’ struggles have been difficult to stomach at times, Eller’s individual success and effectiveness, along with linemates Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin, has been a much-needed boost that has likely helped prevent the team from suffering more than their four losses. If the team is to have success come the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will need Eller, a key performer during their Stanley Cup run in 2018, to continue the roll he has been on since returning from the All-Star break.
By Michael Fleetwood
*Statistics via Natural StatTrick and Hockey Reference