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Green's 30th goal is not fantasy

Thursday, 04.02.2009 / 11:32 AM / NHL Insider

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Kyle Lieske might be the happiest fantasy hockey owner in North America this morning.

When the friend of 23-year-old Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green reached out to his former youth-hockey teammate and requested some production for his sagging fantasy franchise, Green delivered in record-breaking fashion.

Green scored a pair of power-play goals less than 1:30 apart in the third period of a 5-3 victory against the Islanders on Wednesday to become the eighth defenseman in NHL history to score 30 goals in a season and the first Washington defenseman to net 30 since Kevin Hatcher scored 34 in 1992-93.

Green's 18 power-play goals broke a franchise record for a defenseman, breaking the mark of 16 held by Hall of Famer Scott Stevens.

The production was music to the ears of Lieske, whose fantasy roster happens to feature Green, his friend from back home in Calgary.

"I said I was going to do it, but I had no idea it was going to happen," Green said. "I was talking to him before the game and I promised I'd (get to 30) today. His hockey pool was struggling, so I guess I was just trying to help. It's just funny that I did it, and now I can tell him, 'I told you so."'

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't aware Green had his good friend on his mind during the course of the game.

"That's good -- whatever gets him going," Boudreau said. "I hope he has a couple more friends that have a struggling fantasy hockey club."

In addition to coming to the aid of fantasy hockey junkies across the globe, Green's memorable night also was the Capitals' 47th victory of the season -- three short of a franchise-high 50 established in 1985-86. The team also eclipsed the 100-point plateau -- it now has 101 -- for the first time since 1999-2000, when it accrued 102.

"I definitely had a goal for myself to score over 20, and I play with some of the best players in the world," Green said. "I am very fortunate to have as many as I do."

As if Green wasn't already a strong candidate to capture the Norris Trophy as the League's best defenseman this season, now this. There also was his record-setting eight-game goal-scoring streak from Jan. 27-Feb. 14.

"That's why he's so good. That's why he's probably going to win the Norris Trophy this year," Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald said. "It's not the big one-timer shot. It's a nice floater right through, and it's tough for a goaltender."

Boudreau, who has coached Green in the minors and now in the NHL, never expected the slick-skating defenseman to exhibit such offensive flair so early in his career.

"I never thought he had the offensive capabilities," he said. "I knew he could skate and that he competed his rear-end off, but I never knew he had that offensive ability. He has grown so much as a player with his puck-handling and confidence and sometimes it tends to bite him because he's so casual thinking he can deke out everybody, but when he's on, he's fun to watch."

Despite missing 13 games during parts of November and December with a shoulder injury, Green continues to lead all NHL defenders in goals (30), power-play goals (18) and points (70), is fourth in assists (40), and sixth with a career-high plus-24 rating.

"Over a full 82-game schedule, he definitely has the potential to reach 40 goals, I would think," Boudreau said.

Alex Ovechkin, whose NHL-leading 54th goal was overshadowed by Green's heroics against the Islanders, has Green atop his list of the NHL's best defensemen.

"Why not?" Ovechkin told NHL.com. "I don't know who picks the Norris Trophy, but I think he's one of the best defensemen in the League. He can create, defend and is controlled back there. He's not afraid to make some mistakes now and again and that's confidence. It's good for our organization that we have him for long time and I think he will be better and better all the time."

"I don't know who picks the Norris Trophy, but I think he's one of the best defensemen in the League. He can create, defend and is controlled back there. He's not afraid to make some mistakes now and again and that's confidence. It's good for our organization that we have him for long time and I think he will be better and better all the time."
-- Alex Ovechkin on Mike Green

Green's career-high total with the man-advantage has been a result of his being able to find open areas in the offensive zone. He also has benefitted from having three of the League's finest playmakers dishing him the puck in Ovechkin (47 assists), Alexander Semin (43) and Nicklas Backstrom (60).

"It's great that we have guys who can pass the puck," Green said. "I just have to sneak into the open spaces and these guys just put it on my stick."

Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn knows it's never that easy, but Green has the ability to make the tough play look simple.

"He's very slippery out there and can turn on a dime," said Morrisonn. "When you add Ovie and Semin into the mix, you're looking at guys too tough to defend when shorthanded. We have so many weapons out there, but I don't see many guys go back door as well as Mike does, and usually when he gets that pass back door, it's a goal."

The defeat of the Islanders also enabled the Capitals to close in on a second consecutive Southeast Division title. The Caps can clinch first place without even playing a game if the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the Rangers on Thursday. Washington earned its first Southeast Division title in six seasons in 2007-08 on the final day of the regular season.

"Last year was such a blur, I don't even remember what we did," Boudreau said. "I can't recall how often we practiced and watched video because one day was running into another. This year, you're trying to act a little different and not off the cuff. We're 7-2-1 in our last 10, so it can't be too bad."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.


Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp