Warning: The following two stats may cause severe side effects.
- From the 2007-08 season until the start of this season, no defenseman in the NHL scored more goals than Mike Green’s 91.
- Through 27 games this season no player in the NHL has recorded more shots without a goal than Green’s 62.
Since Green has played in 24 of the Caps’ 27 games this season, that’s an average of 2.6 shots a night for the Caps’ 28-year-old defenseman that are not finding their way into opposing nets.
Capitals coach Adam Oates figured Green was allowing that goose egg to affect the way he plays and sat down with him before Friday’s game against the Canadiens.
“The first thing I said to him was, ‘That’s not a slump. Goals will come,’” Oates said. “He got nine [goals] in April. For me, it’s his touches and his decisions.
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“If you’re pressing to get a goal you’re going to skate when you’re not supposed to skate and not wait for the right time. I thought his reads were a little off and I showed him a few situations.”
Oates noticed that in his quest to create more offense, Green was putting the puck in dangerous areas, allowing teams to counter-attack and forcing himself into taking bad penalties – three of them in a 6-4 loss to Ottawa last week.
“He does make a lot of good decisions, but he’s got to stop focusing on the goals,” Oates said. “You’re going to end up with five, 10? I need the other stuff. It’s way more important.”
The “other stuff” Oates is referring to are cleaner breakouts with new defense partner Karl Alzner; chipping the puck behind opposing defensemen when there is no clear entry into the offensive zone; and playing good positional hockey when he doesn’t have the puck.
Oates said he saw a lot of those things in wins over the Canadiens and Islanders.
“He kind of gave me some pointers again to how he sees me playing and how I used to play,” Green said. “Sort of little tidbits. That was a little bit of a confidence boost to go out there and do the things I used to do. Sometimes you forget and you kind of retract and go back into a defensive state.”
Green was asked to take a more defensive posture two seasons ago under former coach Dale Hunter. It drastically affected his offensive numbers, but so did missing more than half of that 2011-12 season with sports hernia surgery.
Now that Green is healthy and has one year remaining on a three-year, $18.25 million contract, he wants to find the proper balance between being an offensive force and being reliable in his own end.
“[Oates] told me to get back to the things you do well,” Green said. “That’s what I’m trying for now. I know Adam gives us the reins to do our thing, but within the limits of the structure of the system.”