In the nine games he’s played since returning to the Capitals’ lineup, Mike Green hasn’t always looked like, well, himself. Or the Green that everyone grew accustomed to during his seasons as a Norris Trophy finalist.
While Green is pain free for the first time since October, his anticipation of when to jump into a rush has been less than perfectly timed, his passes sometimes miss the mark and there’s a hesitance to his game when reading the play.
It’s all understandable, though, and even expected after he missed 47 games between October and mid-February with various injuries. While his physical rehabilitation may be done, getting back into the flow of the game is another challenge altogether.
“Right now I feel like I’m kind of like a robot,” Green said. “I’m in position – but you want to be at a point when really the mental part of the game just flows. You create and you see things before they even happen and that’s the part of the game that I think has taken a step back. Hopefully, it peaks soon.”
Green, who was out of the lineup with an ankle injury and groin strain before finally undergoing sports-hernia surgery in January, hasn’t recorded a point and has a minus-3 rating since he rejoined the lineup on Feb. 18 at Tampa Bay. His ice time ratcheted up rapidly to more than 20 minutes per game and he’s played more than that in seven of the nine games.
While the Capitals could definitely benefit from his offensive instincts, particularly on a power play that is 2 for its last 35, they understand it may take time. Coach Dale Hunter said he’s noticed Green putting extra pressure on himself to return to form but that it’s a matter of time.
“The offensive part, he’ll get some points. It will come,” Hunter said. “I think sometimes you push. He hasn’t got it, so you push a little harder than you should and it’s creating defensive lapses. He just has to go out, play his game and relax.”
Hunter’s system has required some adjustment as well. Not only is Green trying to regain his own form, but this is the first real opportunity he’s had to learn Hunter’s defense-first approach in games.
“It’s different,” Green said. “When you have a different game plan, different structure, obviously things change, guys aren’t in the same spots as they used to be and whatnot. We need to find that and click, and we need to do it quick.”
Hunter has little doubt that Green will smooth out his game and serve a significant role on the Washington roster.
“He’s a big part of this team and we need him,” Hunter said. “He’s a character guy, who wants to win and that’s why he’s hard on himself – he wants to win.”