WASHINGTON - Every time he walks down the hallway leading to the Washington Capitals dressing room at the Verizon Center, Mike Green sees a reminder of better days from years gone by.
There, splashed on one of the walls, is a large list of Capital players who have been honoured by the league in some capacity, whether it be award winners or some other prestigious distinction.
As your eyes scan all the names, you stop at the category marked “All-stars.” That is where you’ll find Green’s name printed out twice in recognition of being selected a first-team all-star in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
For everyone else passing by, that time frame is just two or three years ago.
For Mike Green, it must seem like an eternity.
There are those around him who claim Green was crushed by being passed over for the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, a snub he allegedly still has a difficult time dealing with. Truth be told, general manager Steve Yzerman scouted Green live on a number of instances and his eventual concerns about Green’s defensive liabilities were well founded.
Since then, there have been a number of injury issues that have plagued the Calgary native including concussion problems and a sports hernia ailment that he underwent surgery for back in January.
Still lugging all this baggage with him, it is a reserved version of MIke Green that you see these days. Even as he stood addressing reporters after his winning goal had given the Caps a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, his enthusiasm, while genuine, seemed to be tempered.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Green admitted when asked to describe his career over the past several seasons. “But, as an athlete, you have to stay composed. You can’t worry about the things you can’t control. That’s all you can do.”
What Green can control is helping the Caps stay alive in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal against the Rangers. And that’s exactly what he did.
With Carl Hagelin in the penalty box for a slashing call that did not sit particularly well with the visitors, Green showed excellent patience in waiting for a New York shot blocker to slide by before ripping a blast from the top of the right faceoff circle, whizzing by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with just 5:48 remaining in regulation.
With the series knotted up at 2-2, it now shifts back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Monday night.
While injuries, as mentioned earlier, have played a significant role in his decrease of production, his diminishing numbers nevertheless are staggering.
Entering Game 4 on Saturday, Green, who once carried the reputation as being one of the better offensive defencemen in the game, had scored just once since an Oct. 22 game against Detroit, a contest in which he registered two goals and two assists. Keep in mind that this is the same Mike Green who scored 31 times for the Caps in the 08-09 season.
“My role has changed,” Green said. “I’m not as offensive as I used to be.
“I do know I can still score at least,” he added with a chuckle. “It’s been so long.”
It’s been a long time, too, since Green and star Caps forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin scored in the same game like they did on Saturday. That hadn’t happened since Oct. 30, 2010.
“Everyone has their roles,” coach Dale Hunter said. “Our big guns scored bug goals, and our footsoldiers blocked shots and did the rest.”
All these close games might be the recipe for developing ulcers among their fans, but the Caps are getting used to them. Ten of their 11 playoff games this spring have been decided by one goal, the lone exception coming in Game 1 of this series when the Rangers came out on top 3-1.
“Talking to friends and family, they’re back in their houses biting their nails and pulling their hair out wishing for a 4-0 or 5-0 win instead of all these one-goal games,” forward Brooks Laich said. “That’s not going to happen. But we’ll take these ones as long as we win.”
Mike Green could not have said it any better.