In recent days, Lars Eller has mentioned a few times how difficult this season was for newcomers to the Capitals’ lineup. And of third line, there isn’t a better example for a mix of franchise experience on the team.
Left wing Conor Sheary joined the team in December on a one-year deal. Eller was traded to the Capitals at the 2016 NHL Draft and later signed a five-year contract extension with the team. Right wing Richard Panik signed with the team in July 2019 and hasn’t even been around for two years yet.
But the Capitals’ third line has come on strong of late and, in recent games, has been the team’s best trio.
The mix of intelligence, speed and playmaking ability has been a strong one for the Capitals, as that third line has combined for seven goals and 16 assists in 38 combined games so far this season.
“I think just everybody’s natural competitive nature,” Eller said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington. “Everybody wants to prove themselves, whether it’s guys that have been here for a year or several years, or new guys coming into our team. Everybody is really chipping in, and especially the new guys that are coming in have been put into a tough situation with not a ton of preparation time, and they’ve been finding ways to contribute really quickly and it’s like they’ve been here for a lot longer.”
After a 6-0-3 start to the season, the Capitals dropped four straight games in regulation and seemed to be losing momentum on their strong start.
In the last week, though, the Capitals have gotten progressively healthier and have slowly improved. Eller’s third line has helped play a big part in that resurgence.
“Losing hurts, and everybody’s hungry to turn that around when you do lose a couple games,” Eller said. “At the same time, you never get too low, you can’t get too down on yourself. Of course the atmosphere in the room is always better when you string some wins together and you get on a good winning streak.”