- The Washington Times - Monday, April 27, 2009

NEW YORK

For those wondering whether Mike Green looked a little off for much of the Washington Capitals’ playoff series against the New York Rangers, that would be correct.

Throughout the opening five games, it was as if the Caps defenseman was skating in a sandbox. He certainly wasn’t exhibiting the offensive skills that made him a Norris Trophy finalist for the NHL’s best blueliner.

Following a two-assist performance in Game 1, Green played four games in which he didn’t feel right - and the score sheet confirmed it. In Games 2 through 5, he posted only one assist, had a minus-1 rating and nine shots on goal.

Defensively, he was helping shut down the Rangers, but offensively the end-to-end rushes and power-play proficiency were lacking.

“I wasn’t feeling myself,” he said. “I had no energy, and it’s tough to play like that.”

But his flu-like symptoms disappeared in time for Sunday’s win-or-else Game 6, and Green was back to his normal self. He scored his first goal of the series in the Caps’ 5-3 win that forced a deciding game Tuesday.

“Now I know there was definitely something wrong,” he said.

Said coach Bruce Boudreau: “He was moving his legs and doing everything a lot better.”

And because Green is back to full fitness to go with the Caps’ other working parts, the Rangers are likely finished.

The Rangers had the opportunity every lower seed desires - to close out a series on home ice - and they turned in a clunker. The Caps led 5-1 after two periods, sending some of the 18,200 at Madison Square Garden scurrying downstairs to Penn Station.

“If we play like that, we’re going to win most nights,” Green said.

Because he led all NHL defenseman in goals (31) and points (73), Green has inadvertently raised the bar - he is expected to score most nights, which is foolhardy.

Knowing that, Boudreau has defended Green at every turn. And it’s understandable; he’s passionate about No. 52’s game, knew he was ailing and was correct in pointing out how the Rangers’ offense has been anemic since Game 2.

“Whether he’s scoring or not, he’s still really good,” Boudreau said. “Just because a guy doesn’t score - it’s only five games. It wasn’t like he went scoreless for 23 games.”

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