Roughly two weeks ago, Mike Green acknowledged that his return to the lineup wasn’t as seamless as he might have liked. He compared himself to a robot then, saying that his timing and instincts on the ice weren’t where he wanted them to be.
On Monday in the Capitals’ 5-3 win over Detroit, though, Green had arguably his most solid overall game since returning to the lineup from sports hernia surgery on Feb. 18. Despite having to miss three games for a suspension that ended last week, the defenseman says he finally feels like he’s back in a groove.
“I’m completely, mentally, in a good state right now with the game,” Green said. “It just takes time. You can’t come back and expect to be in the right state of mind to play and be in position all the time and instinctively make the plays. Everything happens so quick that you can’t really think; you’ve just got to play the game, read and react.”
While he recorded a secondary assist on Jason Chimera’s empty-net goal in the contest – the defenseman’s first point since October – what stood out more was Green’s confidence in making strong outlet passes and plays that jump started the Capitals’ offense.
Green was on the ice for four of Washington’s five goals against the Red Wings and was not on the ice for any against.
“I thought he played very well,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “I think we all seen it that you don’t judge your game by how many goals and assists you’ve got, it’s how you play. And Mike, he moved the puck well. When he was out there he controlled the game and that’s what we need from Mike.”
Hunter brought up the play Green made that resulted in Mike Knuble’s goal in Detroit as well. While he didn’t receive a point on the scoresheet, it was Green’s sharp pass from the top of the circle in the Washington end that found Mathieu Perreault entering the offensive zone and created the three-on-two rush that scored.
The Capitals still need those types of passes and plays from Green to help spark the offense, even if Hunter’s system requires that he play a more defensive-minded game.
“It’s taken some time for me to adjust to his system, for sure,” Green said. “Coming back it was completely different and I finally kind of found my spot on the team and I’m happy with it.”
More on Green in tomorrow’s hard copy edition, so be sure to keep an eye out.