Mike Green led all NHL defensemen in goals last season but through 24 games this season, the Capitals blueliner has yet to record a single one. His 62 shots on goal are the most by any player in the league yet to score a goal.
But when Coach Adam Oates met with the 28-year-old defenseman prior to Washington’s game against Montreal last Friday, he told Green to focus on the rest of his game not so much the goals or, in this case, the lack thereof.
“First thing I said was, ‘That’s not a slump. Goals will come. You got nine in April,’” Oates said. “For me it’s his touches and his decisions. If you’re pressing to get a goal you’re going to skate at opportunities you’re not supposed to skate at and not wait for it at the right time, and I felt his reads were just a little off.”
Oates showed Green various plays and reads where he was sabotaging his own efforts by misplaying an angle or mistiming his zone entries and exits. They were plays that Green has made correctly numerous times over the course of his career, but when a player with strong offensive instincts doesn’t feel he’s contributing enough at that end of the ice, it can impact his overall game as well.
Over the last two games, Green has looked more like the confident puck-handler that the Capitals need him to be, both in moving the puck out of their own zone and jumping up to spark an offensive possession.
Oates “just kind of gave me some pointers to how he sees me playing and how I used to play and some little tidbits. Maybe that was a little bit of a confidence booster to kind of get back out there and do the things that I used to do,” said Green, who has one year remaining on his current three-year, $18.25 million contract after this season. “Sometimes you can forget, you retract and you go back into a defensive state, and that’s not necessarily my game. Get back to the things you do well and that’s what I’m on track for now.”
In the second period of Washington’s 3-2 overtime win against the Islanders Saturday, Oates saw more of the correct decisions from Green that he expects as the defenseman put the puck in ways that aided his teammates rather than handcuffing them with poor placement.
“He does make a lot of good decisions and [needs to] stop focusing on the goals. I try to take his mind off of it,” Oates said. Green’s “going to end up with what, five, 10? I need the other stuff, way more important.”