Washington Capitals forward Lars Eller had one heck of a game last night, didn’t he? As easy as it is to be jealous of teams like Washington having generational talents like Alex Ovechkin, their Russian superstar Evgeny Kuznetsov already over in North America, and a true 1C in Niklas Backstrom, it’s seeing players like Eller step up during the playoffs that really generates envy for me. While it never seemed likely the Wild would go far in the playoffs this year with the road ahead paved with the top two regular season teams in the Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators, it has long been an issue that many of the Wild’s players don’t step up during the playoffs. Adding to the anguish is that many of them have demonstrated that next gear during the World Championship right after getting unceremoniously bounced during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Where were the Worlds-version of Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter during the playoffs this year? Nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, Lars Eller has twice now stepped up to replace one of the Capitals’ top centers when they were down with injury. He has shined when the spotlight is on him. That seems to be missing for the Wild, which is always going to be a lethal failing during the playoffs.
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