Capitals

Eller: Claim that Caps checked out in bubble ‘far from the truth’

Capitals

The Capitals may have had some on-ice problems that led to them being knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round last summer, but center Lars Eller fired back at a reporter who said Washington was more interested in having “pool parties” at the bubble in Toronto than competing for a title.

“I’m sure he got maybe a few clicks or some followers from that or something,” Eller said Tuesday to the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. “But no, that’s far from the truth. We’re competitors by nature. I don’t think we played our best hockey in Toronto but it didn’t have anything to do with what was going on off the ice…We didn’t treat it any differently than we would’ve had at home and everybody was ready to play when the puck dropped. There wasn’t anything going on at the hotel that shouldn’t be going on.

“There was a pool and there were served drinks but I think all the teams spent some time by the pool having a few drinks on their days off. Nothing out of the ordinary, really.”

The Athletic’s Minnesota Wild beat writer Michael Russo told listeners on his podcast “The Russo Hockey Show” in September that the Capitals’ struggles against the New York Islanders were due to a lack of focus from the players.

 

“Yeah, well, I mean the stories from inside the bubble about the Caps basically turning it into a vacation, having pool parties and things like that,” Russo said. “You pretty much knew that they had no interest in being there.”

That evidently didn’t sit well with Eller, who laughed at the accusation when asked about it on the Junkies. The veteran center had bigger things on his mind while in the bubble: his wife Julie’s pregnancy. He temporarily left Toronto to be with his family following the birth of his son Alexander, the couple’s second child.

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However, he wasn’t allowed in the hospital during the delivery due to the NHL’s coronavirus protocols.

“If I had wanted to enter the delivery room, I would’ve had to serve an even longer quarantine and possibly have sat out the entire first round of the series if I entered the hospital,” Eller said. “There were some difficult choices to make, making sacrifices both for my family and for my team and found somewhat of a middle ground where I wasn’t at the delivery but I did get to spend time with him immediately after they left the hospital and two days at home.”

Eller was forced to miss Game 1 of the Capitals’ first-round series but cleared quarantine in time to return for Game 2.

For more interviews, tune into the Sports Junkies on NBC Sports Washington, weekdays from 6-10 a.m.