Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau spent Tuesday morning lobbying for defenseman Mike Green to make the Canadian Olympic team.NEWARK, N.J. -- Completely unprovoked,
"If I'm Stevie Yzerman, I'm looking at him as one of your top pair," Boudreau said.
According to people that follow the Capitals closely, it's the first time Boudreau has publicly made a pitch on Green's behalf. It's also an about face from last spring, when after the playoffs were over Boudreau admitted his disappointment in Green's overall effort through 14 postseason games.
Green torched the NHL for 31 goals and 73 points during the regular season, but all that got washed down the drain with his postseason letdown. He had a goal, 9 points and had a team-worst minus-5 rating.
His speed was gone. His shot was bad. His passes were off the mark. He was very much a liability on the defensive end. It didn't help he was using a new stick, but by his own admission, Green was also nearly 30 pounds overweight and sick.
Now, Green tells NHL.com he's "comfortable and confident again," even though his goal scoring isn't what it was last season.
Save for a tremendous rush and move by Rick Nash to get around him for a goal in Sunday's 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus, Green has been better in all areas. He entered Wednesday's game in New Jersey on a nine-game point streak and is a plus-3 this season.
"I think the last five games he's been outstanding," Boudreau said. "He's got his legs, he's jumping into the play. He had a little bit of a hiccup when Nash came down on him, but overall defensively he's done fine for us."
His defense partner, Shaone Morrisonn, hasn't had to cover for Green as much as he had to in the past, including the first few games of this season when Morrisonn felt Green was trying to do too much and got burned for it.
"I think his last five games he has been playing more of a complete game and still is getting the offensive numbers, which is great," Morrisonn told NHL.com. "Defensively everybody is going to get beat once in a while, especially by great players, but besides that (goal by Nash) he has been very sound defensively. He's been in his spot and very supportive to me. He has definitely settled down from the start. He's seeing the ice a little better and it's making him have more offensive opportunities."
Green, who is tied for second among defenseman with 11 assists and 13 points, said he's already forgotten about last season's playoff flop.
"It's one of those things that happened," he said. "You get disappointed if you don't play your best, but it happens and you live and you learn."
He said he's made a conscious effort to be better on the defensive end, realizing he has to be because after his remarkable 2008-09 season, teams are paying much closer attention to him on the offensive end.
He isn't open nearly as much, so anyone expecting another 31-goal season from him might be, as Green explained, completely unrealistic.
"Not ever, but every season to expect that is crazy," Green said. "It's all about timing and opportunity. Before I was wide-open and now I have guys standing beside me. Before the scope wasn't on me as much, but now people notice me a little bit more."
To that end, Green has had to change parts of his game. He's had to be more careful.
"I have had to find ways around guys and pick different opportunities to jump up and when not to," Green said. "Before it was all the time and I created a lot of offense because guys didn't expect it. Now they expect it and they are backchecking and picking up on me. It's got to be timing and you have to adjust. I think I have now.
"It's all about feel for me and I didn't have a good feel before. Now I have it back."
But have Yzerman and his Olympic team cohorts noticed?
Green certainly is on their radar, but No. 52 is trying not to worry about it.
"I was thinking about it before the season, but my focus is this team right now," Green said. "It's obviously in the back of my mind, but I'm not thinking about it all the time anymore."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org