WASHINGTON, D.C. — Back on Sunday against the Boston Bruins, head coach Peter Laviolette had to recalibrate the lineup with Nicklas Backstrom out for maintenance. So, on the Washington Capitals’ second line, the head coach put Lars Eller in Backstrom’s spot at pivot with Anthony Mantha and Tom Wilson on the wings. The combination almost instantaneously found a spark and hasn’t looked back.
Even when Backstrom returned, Laviolette kept that trio together on the third line, instead putting Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie with Backstrom upfront. Since that 4-2 win over Boston, Mantha-Eller-Wilson has combined for six of the Capitals’ 16 goals — three of those coming in Tuesday’s 9-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Not only that, but they bring a lot of size and physicality to the table, and they have played well in their own end and have helped shut down the opposition as well, while also taking good care of the puck.
“What I like about the Eller line is that they’re big and they’re strong,” Laviolette said of the combo. “They can handle size, they still all have skill, they seem to have good chemistry.”
All three players are not only effective at both ends of the ice, but they have made an impact offensively as well. The combination also has a goals-for percentage of 83.33, and an expected goals-for percentage of 67.82. Not only that, but Mantha, Eller and Wilson boast a scoring chances-for percentage of 53.57 and 66.67 shots for percentage. Without that trio on the ice, Washington’s SCF% sits at 51.77, while the team’s SF% is 52.63. In addition to the in-depth analytics, all three players have taken a step forward when it comes to production.
Wilson is having a career year with 24 goals and 52 points and has points in four straight games.
READ MORE ON WHN: Tom Wilson Opens Up About Career Year With Capitals, Adapting To The Everchanging Game, Twitter & More
“He plays a hard game every night and he’s always balls to the wall and he answers the bell,” Mantha said of his linemate. He’s a tough customer and it’s just awesome to have him in the locker room… he’s producing at a good level.”
Mantha also had three points in his last three games, though he’s looking to add more when it comes to pressure on the forecheck.
Mainly, though, Eller’s gained a step since moving back to the middle to center that line. The Dane has had an inconsistent year plagued by a bit of adversity, and before joining Mantha and Wilson, his GF% was at 47.37 and his SCF% at 48.17. However, of late, he has been red-hot. He is on a three-game point streak, with three goals and five points total over that span. Through 64 games this season, he has 12 goals and 28 points.
“You feel like things are going well with your linemates and you feel like you got something going… when you do have that stability and chemistry at the same time, I think some good will come of it,” Eller said. “It’s been beneficial for me, and I like to think it’s been beneficial for Tom and Mo, too. And when you have that, it’s going to benefit the team as well. I think that’s always what you look for.”
Washington has eight games left in the regular season and a chance to climb the standings and even end up as a top-3 team in the Metro. However, the Capitals will have to continue to get secondary scoring from lines like Mantha-Eller-Wilson.
Ultimately, when it comes to continued success on that line, Mantha said the key is keeping things “simple.”
“It’s three big bodies we’re three quick players too. We’ll get some pucks back and then we’ll manage the puck offensively. Lars is a good centerman. Obviously defensively he creates turnovers and he wins some face-offs. It’s positive for our line to get things going.”