By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 24, 2009
Washington Capitals standout Mike Green, the NHL's leading scorer among defenseman, was named a finalist for the Norris Trophy yesterday, joining perennial nominees Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings.
"It's definitely a big honor and I'm very proud," Green said after yesteray's optional practice. "It's been a long season and to be rewarded like that is pretty special. I never really thought that [this] would ever happen. But here it is."
Asked to elaborate, Green apologized for his brief answer, saying he's more worried about his team's first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers. The Capitals trail the best-of-seven series 3-1, and Green, by his own admission, has not been at his best.
Green notched a pair of secondary assists in Game 1, but has been held off the scoresheet since, despite averaging almost two minutes more in ice time than any other player in the series. Green also has a plus-minus rating of minus-3, which is tied with Eric Fehr for worst on the Capitals.
"I haven't felt up to par," said Green, who has been suffering from flu-like symptoms all series. "I'm finally getting my mind back and my game under control."
Green's struggles in the playoffs contrast with a record-breaking regular season in which he was an offensive force, amassing 31 goals and 73 points despite being limited to 68 games because of injury and illness. He also became the first defenseman in 16 years to eclipse the 30-goal plateau and his 18 power-play goals were one short of the NHL record held by Sheldon Souray.
Green also set an NHL record for consecutive games with a goal by a defenseman with eight, while posting a plus-minus rating of plus-24, the second-best rating on the team behind Alexander Semin.
While Green's offensive production has made him a star, Coach Bruce Boudreau said the strides he's made in the defensive end this season have made him an ideal candidate for the Norris.
"He never gets enough credit because [everyone] focuses on the offense," Boudreau said. "But if you look at our team and who's on [the ice] in the last minute, you look at who's on penalty killing, and you look at ice time when we need a goal, and who's on? It's Mike Green. No disrespect to the two unbelievably good defensemen that he's up against, but the award is based upon the year that you've had. And Mike has had a tremendous year."
If Green wins, he'll become the second Capital to win the Norris and first since Rod Langway won it in 1982-83 and 1983-84. But Green is facing stiff competition from Chara and Lidstrom, who has received the honor three straight seasons and six of the past seven.
This year's winner will be announced at the NHL awards ceremony on June 18 in Las Vegas. But Green said he's focused on extending the series.
"Including myself, I can definitely step up my game," he said. "For the team, if one guy is not going it's harder for the rest of the team. Everybody has got to do their part."