If the exuberant smile following the last handful of celebrations didn't give it away, then perhaps being tackled into the net by Anders Lee after scoring the game-winner in Winnipeg on March 28 was a more obvious indicator that Jordan Eberle is having fun.
With six points in the last five games and riding a season-high three-game goal streak, the Islanders right-winger is getting hot as he enters just the second postseason of his nine-year NHL career. He's relishing in every moment of it.
"It seems like the last little bit I've been getting a lot of chances," Eberle said. "[And the puck] is starting to go in a little bit more. It's the right time of the year to start heating up and hopefully I can bring my best come playoff time."
The Islanders have already punched their ticket to the dance with a convincing 5-1 win over Buffalo on March 30. They've since devoted their energy towards the last two games of the regular season which will determine their seeding in playoffs. Home ice is in their control with two wins, they can host a Game One for the first time since 1988.
"I think the biggest thing is when you're winning you just keep moving on," Eberle said. "When you win you give yourself the chance to hopefully take the division. That's the goal."
Head Coach Barry Trotz has seen a difference in Eberle's game of late, noticing a more assertive player going to the hard areas.
"I think there were stretches this year when he got to the outside and got pushed to the outside," Trotz said. "Unfortunately, you're always on your backhand. You can't get pucks to the net. You're not close enough to the net to beat the goalies here.
"Right now, he's just working for an advantage and the advantage is getting into the interior and making those little small plays that you need to make."
Eberle's recent outturn has also coincided with playing alongside Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal. Since being assembled on March 11, the Islanders top line has produced 22 points (12G, 10A) during that stretch of 12 games.
"These guys can move the puck and make plays," Lee said. "Obviously, they're so skilled. It's a quick game. I think right now they're playing some pretty good hockey. It's fun to join in with them and try to make things happen as much as possible...Right now we're clicking pretty good."
There's no denying the on-ice chemistry between the trio, but the ability to synthesize their separate flairs into a unified and dynamic line has contributed to their collective success. Barzal's elite playmaking instincts feed off of Eberle's cunning play both with and without the puck. Lee balances out his shifty linemates with his hard-nosed play around the net front. The line's production was first sparked by the Isles captain who rode a four-game goal streak from March 11 through March 17. As Eberle began his recent roll, he helped Barzal break out of a 19-game scoring slump lasting from Feb. 16-March 28. Eberle had the sole assist on Barzal's tally against Winnipeg.
"The more and more we play together it just seems like every night we're getting a little more chemistry the last three or four games," Barzal, who leads the Islanders with 62 points (18G, 44A), said. "I thought before that we were playing well. Pucks just weren't going in. Lately, the last couple of games they've been going in. Great to see [Eberle] get a couple. He's been hot."
Video: BUF@NYI: Eberle nets rebound to open scoring
Barzal and the Isles sacrificed individual stats for team success, but going through lengthy goal droughts can still be tough. Eberle went scoreless for 17 games from Feb. 10 through March 17, before breaking out. Streaks of any nature tend to draw attention, but the veteran stuck with it and worked his way out of the slump.
The 28-year-old has established himself as a consistent scorer in his nine-year career. Eberle has 209 goals in 664 career games and has finished with 20-goal seasons in all but two years of his career. Eberle score 18 in his rookie season (2010-11), and scored 16 goals in 37 games during the truncated 2012-13 lockout. With two games to play this season, Eberle is one goal shy of reaching the 20-goal mark for a seventh time.
Fortunately, there is more hockey on deck for the Isles, and the last handful of games are promising indicators that Eberle is trending in the right direction at the right time.