Mike Green didn’t let a little puck to the face get in the way of an impressive performance.
The Washington Capitals defenseman got a few stitches on the left side of his chin Saturday night, but that was just a footnote because of the offensive show he put on: two goals and two assists in a return to vintage Green to lead a 7-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
“I thought it was Mike Green’s best game — maybe in a year,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
All around, it probably was. Green scored from above the circles on the power play twice with shots that looked reminiscent of the player who had 31 goals in 2008-09. He left with 2:57 left in the first when taking a dump-in from Detroit’s Darren Helm to the face but returned to start the second.
To Boudreau, the difference in this Green and one from last season is that he’s healthy.
“He came into camp — he was so focused. And I’ve been telling people, the last few games, he’s had great chances. Great chances. And they haven’t materialized,” Boudreau said. “But he’s just waiting for something to explode or break out and tonight it broke out for him. It was really good. I’m really happy to see it for him.”
Green’s effort was part of a dangerous Caps power play that went 2-for-4 — and had Detroit players in a bit of awe. Green’s goals — both the result of ridiculous passes, from Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, showed what can happen when Washington’s top unit is clicking.
“They’re moving the puck real well. They’re finding open guys,” Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They have guys that can put the puck in the back of the net. A very dangerous power play.”
But it wasn’t just at the offensive end that Green excelled against the Red Wings. He had one major mental lapse where he left Pavel Datsyuk wide open in front of the net (the puck, fortunately for the Caps, hit Danny Cleary’s skate in front). Save for that, the 26-year-old played well defensively.
“Look at the way he played. A lot of the night he was against Datsyuk’s line,” Boudreau said. “I know it was with Brooks [Laich’s] line but … still, they did a great job on him.”
Green played a total of 12 shifts against the line of Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Cleary – considered maybe one of the best trios in the league.
Green even got some early Norris Trophy publicity from CSN analyst Alan May, who mentioned the defenseman as a candidate given his all-around game, writing: “He’s all grown up & ready to be a champion.”
It may be a bit premature for that talk, but Green knew this was a big test against a powerful Red Wings team and passed it.
“I think after tonight it’s over and done with,” he said. “I think we’ve stepped up to the challenges.”