Monday, November 07, 2011

Lars Eller Makes the Halak Trade Look Like Robbery







The twittersphere, blogosphere and undoubtedly countless other spheres have taken a notice of that Lars Eller kid. It appears that he’s hit hockey career puberty. It occurs sooner to some than others and it can be gradual or it can be sudden. For Eller, it seems that his proverbial testes dropped over the summer.

The go-to cliché of, “they had some lucky bounces” is an empty platitude that NHL players love to recite mechanically. You can’t claim that lucky bounces are not part of the game but when a team has enough impact players dictating the flow; the lucky bounces just seem to go their way. So remember, the next time a player says lucky bounces made the difference, they’re just stating the obvious fact that they were inferior to their opponents and deserved to lose. There are players who succeed at capitalizing on scoring chances and then there are players who succeed at manufacturing chances. Eller is demonstrating characteristics of the latter.
Up until the end of last season most observers would have labelled him as a prospect with talent. He didn’t have an impact on the outcome of games but his positioning and intensity were laudable and encouraging. We aren’t seeing the same player this year. It’s clear that Eller’s got some soft hands. They’re the hands that could juggle vulnerable baby chicks with confidence. They can undo tricky double-clasp bras in the flick of a wrist. They could stickhandle a cup of tea from end to end without spilling a drop.
Lars Eller’s playmaking skills, his puck control and his physical play have compelled many to change his label from “prospect with promise” to “contributing asset”. I won’t rush to claim he’s an indispensable asset like some reactionary mud-brain fans but his progress so far is something all fans can appreciate.
It’s unavoidable that players who are traded for one another will be compared to each other so long as they stay with those respective teams. The Halak trade is no exception. Judging careers before they’re over is foolish but for the first time since June 2010, even the Carey Price doubters are starting to maybe consider that Montreal made a wise move. Halak’s only win this season in seven games played came on October 10th versus Calgary on a night when the Flames had back-up, Henrik Karlsson in net (Karlsson has yet to win this season in four games played). Oddly enough that was three days before Eller played his first game of the season. Could it be that the balance in the universe won’t let both players excel at the same time?
Now that I’ve brought the discussion back to the Halak is better than Price crap, I guess I’ll take a moment to review the matter. First, I’ve always been critical of the overly generous praise for Halak. Did he contribute to getting the team to the conference finals? Of course he did but the impressive defensive support that he got shouldn’t be (and has been) underestimated. In any game where a goalie makes 40+ saves, like Halak did in many of those play-off games, it’s safe to assume that lots of shots were easy to see. The defensive corps was very successful at giving Halak a chance to see the shots and was very consistent in clearing any loose pucks that ended up in the crease.
Here’s my take on the Halak versus Price debate that I’m hearing from grumbling fans who continually say that Price can’t make the saves the way Halak could. The defense playing in front of Halak was better back then. That cannot be denied but any fan who claims they never saw poor defensive execution when Price was in nets is in severe denial. It’s plausible that they had more confidence in Price and eased up on their vigilance defensively and this understandably made Price out to look like a bum goalie incapable of replacing Halak.
The Price versus Halak thing may never be resolved but we can all agree that we’re glad to have Eller on our side.

The only two words I can understand from this video are "Lars Eller" and "Wow!" but that about sums it up anyway.


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