VIDEO BREAKDOWN: Eller Finding His Groove With Avalanche
It took a handful of games, but Lars Eller is really starting to find his groove with the Colorado Avalanche.
He played really well against the Arizona Coyotes, Jared Bednar loved his game against Montreal, but I thought his best performance came on Wednesday night against the Maple Leafs.
I went through the game again today and picked out some clips that show what kind of night he had. When the Avalanche acquired him, they were envisioning a big and strong center to hold down the fort on the third line. That’s what they got against Toronto.
This was one of my favorite clips from the night. Right before this, Jack Johnson broke his stick in the corner. He decided to go for the long change, leaving the Avalanche temporarily shorthanded. Eller digs the puck off the wall and just overpowers the Leafs forward to get it to the red line, then turns the entire play into an offensive zone face-off for his team.
Get Out of The Way
Eller picks off a pass in the neutral zone, and when he enters the zone, Jake McCabe goes for the big hit.
Eller sends him down to the ice, before tripping over McCabe’s skates. The Avalanche turn the play into another offensive zone face-off.
Eller’s short support in the defensive zone as the center was superb all night long. Here, it leads to a rush the other way. He delays, and hits Logan O’Connor coming late. Why doesn’t O’Connor shoot? I don’t know, as he passed up a great look. Either way, it was a nice delay and feed by Eller, and it all started with proper positioning on the breakout.
This is when you know a player is getting comfortable and trusting their instincts. As the last man back, with one of the most dangerous players in the league checking him, Eller escapes up the ice. He flies past Matthews, protects the puck, and gets the puck into the offensive zone. In a span of eight seconds, he turns the play up from the front of his net to the offensive zone, and a Toronto mistake leads to another offensive zone possession for the Avalanche. A confident play to make with under five minutes remaining in a tie game.
Another big reason Eller was brought in was for help in the face-off circle. J.T. Compher has had to take the bulk of face-offs this year, and Bednar wanted another option.
Against the Leafs, he didn’t have to take a ton of the, but he won five of the eight he took, including two of three in the defensive zone. This was a face-off after Toews iced the puck. Eller wins it cleanly back, and after a battle, the Avalanche get the puck out and into the offensive zone.
I think it’s still debatable if Eller was worth a second round pick, and it’s fair to question if he has the offense to be a third line center, but there’s no doubt he’s getting more comfortable in the system. And with each passing game, you start to see why the Avalanche targeted him.