Mike Green blasted the puck from the point and ignited the Washington Capitals. Again.
Scoring his 11th and 12th goals of the season, the defenseman reminded everyone of his value to the Caps in Saturday night's 3-2 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins.
“You saw how special he can be,” coach Adam Oates said. “He got us back in the ballgame by himself, kind of, even though it's on PP. But that first shot is all-world. He got his juices going.”
And got the Caps going from a two-goal deficit in their final regular-season game. The result was meaningless, though on the night they found out they'd be facing the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, they got another taste of what Green can bring in the postseason.
“He means a lot, he’s so good with the puck back there and he’s following up he’s in every play, I think, and that is what’s important,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “He’s playing a lot of minutes, so it’s great to see him here and hopefully he stays healthy.”
Green's health has been key to the Caps' turnaround from 14th in the Eastern Conference to Southeast Division champions. In 19 games since returning from a groin injury, the 27-year-old had 10 goals and nine assists and Washington is 15-2-2.
“Mike, to me, should be a Norris Trophy candidate every year,” Oates said. “Obviously he's had a tough injury bug, but he's our guy back there that we're counting on to have all those touches. Obviously goals are great; you don't necessarily look for that, but I look for his decisions with the puck is what I look for.”
Green showcased the offensive elements of his game Saturday night, scoring twice on the power play and picking up the primary assist on Fehr's overtime winner.
“When he's on the ice the other team's got to know where he is,” defenseman John Erskine said. “If he's not in the lineup, it usually hurts us.”
In getting two goals in Game 48, Green finished the regular season with the most goals in the NHL among defensemen, one more than P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. Defense partner Karl Alzner and his wife, Mandy, were discussing the goal-scoring race for blue liners, and he acknowledged being “fired up for him” about Green being first.
“It’s pretty impressive, 35 games he’s got  goals that’s ridiculous,” Alzner said.
Green doing so in just 35 games makes the accomplishment that much more impressive. He has missed 93 of the Caps' past 212 regular-season games because of one injury or another.
Right now he's healthy and feeling it.
“It feels good. It’s been a rough year, too,” Green said. “You enjoy playing the game again, coming to the rink every day knowing that you have the confidence and your body’s stable enough to play. It’s a lot of fun.”
Green made his impact against the Bruins on the power play, but he has eight even-strength goals, also most in the league among defensemen.
“He’s a big part of our power play, obviously. But he’s a big part of our five-on-five hockey,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “He does a great job on the penalty kill when he’s out there. He’s an all-around great player and when we put him in scoring situations he seems to be able to fire because they’ve been covering Ovi so much lately, taking him away, taking him away, that it’s opened Green up. It’s kind of like a double threat.”
Captain Alex Ovechkin didn't score against Boston, but with 32 goals he wrapped up the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for the first time since 2008-09 and became the only player to win it three times.
That was ensured when Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning didn't record a hat trick Saturday night, but Green had to produce against the Bruins to get his accolade. The Caps are very used to him doing that and hope it continues in the playoffs.
“To have a D-man that’s a game-changer is hard to find,” Alzner said. “When you find that you’ve got to hold on to him and it’s great that he’s playing the way he is.”
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