Anthony Mantha, Lars Eller find chemistry for capitals

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LAS VEGAS – Before Washington Capitals coach Peter LaViolet reshaped the squad last week, he put quarterback Lars Eller and winger Anthony Mantha together in the third line, neither of whom looked ready for the playoffs.

Eller had gone eight games without a point in what appeared to be a wasted year. Mantha had gone four times without one and seemed to be holding back after missing more than half of the season. The two players able to provide Washington’s crucial point depth – a must-have after the season – looked stagnant.

But when Eller and Mantha joined Tom Wilson in the third streak in the victory over Boston on April 10, the DC team saw immediate results. In the past five games, which concluded with Washington’s victory over Colorado on Monday, Mantha has scored two goals and five assists, and Eller has scored three goals and four assists. Having already served a professional year, Wilson continued production by scoring two goals and an assist.

Wednesday morning’s skateboarding suggested that Laviolette planned to keep Eller and Mantha together for that night’s game in Vegas, but he moved Wilson to front row with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. TJ Oshie fell to play Eller and Mantha.

Laviolette said he loved the speed and physicality that Eller and Mantha brought with Wilson on that streak. When the trio were on the ice together in those five games, the Capitals scored five goals and conceded only one.

“Lars has been playing really hard lately,” LaViolet said Wednesday morning. Mantha at his side was four over four and five over five, [and] They seem to have quite a bit of chemistry together. We may move the wing towards the end of the season, but that seems very appropriate at the moment.”

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Eller said that stability and harmony on the line helps all the players involved – something that can be missed if you look at the score sheet.

“It was useful to me,” he said.

Eller has been through many canyons in a difficult season, as he struggled on both ends of the ice. He also tested positive twice for the coronavirus, which caused him to be missing for extended periods during isolation.

There was a point in early April that it looked like Eller could be taken out of the third-line center role in favor of rookie Conor McMichael. Laviolette Eller kept in the squad but at one point moved him to the fourth line. In the end, Laviolette found Eller to be the better option, despite his contradictions.

Eller said his game hits every level when he succeeds in the showdown circuit, and he creates more chances than he gives up. It also helps that he’s been skating with more veteran players lately.

“There are certain signs you are trying to think of. … Lee [it’s also] Thinking about shooting more and thinking maybe not always going first but moving the feet, always moving, be aggressive,” he said.

Mantha finds his form in time; He had missed 45 games after shoulder surgery in November. He had his best game of the season on Saturday in Montreal, scoring two goals and adding two assists. His improved timing and physical play were notable.

“Sometimes when you have long injuries with rehab, there is no light at the end [tunnel]Lavolette said. “…It’s really good to bring him back because of his size, given the way he can be physically and his skill level.”

Mantha loves to play with Eller, and attributes his success to his quarterback playing and his sharp play-making decisions. He loves the way they play a simple game and can read each other.

“He’s a good midfielder and good in defence [as well]Mantha said. “He’s made transformations and won a few matches, so it’s all positive for our streak.”

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