It is easy to be overlooked on a team like the Capitals which boasts star players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson. For Mike "Doc" Emrick, however, he sees what Lars Eller brings to the team and he has not forgotten the contribution he made to the 2018 Stanley Cup run.
Appearing in an episode of the Capitals Talk, Emrick reflected on the 2018 Cup run. As he thought about that postseason, of course, he spoke about Ovechkin and Braden Holtby, but there was one player Emrick felt he needed to bring up because his contributions were so often overlooked.
"He only makes $3.5 million, but Lars Eller, in my mind, has always been one of the more unheralded important players for what he does on faceoffs and comes up with key plays," Emrick said.
Most fans remember that Eller scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 5 against the Vegas Golden Knights, but that was hardly his only contribution. Not by a long shot.
Eller stepped up in a second-line role for four games in the absence of Backstrom who was out with a hand injury. Those four games came in the second and third rounds. The Caps went 3-1 in those four games.
But Eller's biggest contribution to the 2018 run, perhaps even bigger than the Game 5 goal against Vegas, was his double-overtime winner against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 3 of the first round.
That was the play that stood out to Emrick.
"To get that overtime winner that turned things around in Columbus and then, all of a sudden, there seemed to be no stopping them," he said.
Washington was down in that series 2-0 and was one goal away from going down 3-0. Overcoming a 3-0 deficit is not impossible, but who are we kidding? They weren't coming back from that. You know it, I know it, we all know it. Eller made sure it didn't happen and his goal saved a postseason that turned out to be the team's best.
Eller did not win the Conn Smythe. He did not lead the team in points. He was not the team's best player in the playoffs. But he had key contributions without which the team would not have won the Cup. That's something a hockey expert like Emrick won't forget.