It didn’t matter than Mike Green spent over a month on the shelf after a concussion. It didn’t matter that he took a puck to the side of the head in early February.
These are the playoffs, so the Capitals’ All-Star defenseman went down to block a shot in the first period of Game 5 Sunday off the stick of Matt Gilroy. Unfortunately the puck hit him in the face and knocked him out for the rest of the Caps’ 3-1 victory over the Rangers, but Green appears to be all right.
“He’s OK. We could’ve played him,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He got a puck to the head, but he told me he was fine after the game.”
Green got the hard hat afterward and earned plenty of praise for laying out and getting in front of a shot and not being gun shy about it.
“When you get a guy like that who’s had symptoms before and who goes down to block a shot, you know he’s determined to win. Hats off to him for doing that,” center Jason Arnott said. “Hopefully he comes back, and he seems to be all right. That just pumped us up even more to see him go down and try to keep a goal out and put his body first and put the team first.”
Green’s afternoon started out very well as he scored his first of the playoffs — a power-play marker to give the Caps an early 1-0 lead. It looked like just a matter of time until Green broke through.
“I think he gets better and better and better every game. He missed 26 out of 28 games there,” Boudreau said before the game. “He’s being responsible. He’s doing everything we ask him to. If he scores he scores, if he doesn’t he doesn’t. But there’s a real chance eventually one of those shots is going to go in.”
It did, but then he got knocked out when Gilroy’s shot struck him in the face as he dived to get in front of it. Boudreau said it showed something special about Green that he was willing to do that.
“Here’s a guy that’s had three times this year already — or two for sure — but I know there was more where he’s gotten hit in the head,” the coach said. “And he’s still doing whatever it would take to win a hockey game, and that’s tremendous character.”
Green’s teammates saw him as he rejoined them on the bench in the second period but didn’t see any ice time beyond his 5:36 in the first. He became something of an inspiration as well — and Karl Alzner found it odd that it was almost the same situation as when Brooks Orpik’s shot hit Green back on Feb. 6.
“You don’t like to see that,” Alzner said. “He was battling hard there, he was on the bench just kinda warming up between every intermission out there and we just wanted to go out there and get that win for him tonight and let him rest and we hopefully can get him back for the next game.”
Green’s official status likely won’t be known until Monday when the Caps return to Kettler for practice after a day off, but judging by Boudreau’s attitude it seems things are good for now.
Well, as long as Green stops taking pucks to the head.
“I just wish he’d get the magnets out of his helmet,” Boudreau joked.