NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green:
NEW YORK -- Mike Green has always had the skill to help the Washington Capitals win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now he feels he again has the tool to do so as well.
Green's stick has become something of a big deal in Washington because the one he uses on occasion, the discontinued Easton Stealth CNT, is a throwback to his 31-goal, 73-point season in 2008-09, which was by far Green's best season in his 10 years in the NHL.
He has 40 points this season in what is arguably his strongest season since 2008-09. Part of the reason might have something to do with the rare stick, which Easton stopped making in 2007.
Mike Green has always had the skill to help the Washington Capitals win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now he feels he again has the tool to do so as well. (Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHLI)
"Every time I see that stick and I pick it up, whether it's to sign for a fan or whatnot, I can tell right away why I liked it," Green said Sunday prior to Washington's 5-2 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. "They discontinued it and ever since then I haven't had that same feel."
The story first surfaced in late February, when an astute fan watching the Capitals on television noticed that Green was using the stick that helped make him a Norris Trophy finalist in 2008-09. The fan notified Russian Machine Never Breaks, a Capitals' blog, which picked up on the story and spoke to Green, who admitted that he found the old stick sifting through his garage one day.
"It's just got the balance that works perfect for me," Green said. "Not that it's good for everybody, but I feel I have better control with that stick, whether it's the materials used to make it, the balance they have, or whatever it is it just feels good. It's interesting, though, how it's become such a big deal when really it's not."
It's a big deal because Green is now on a mission to find as many as he can.
Fans that had the stick signed by Green have donated them back to him. Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner had one in his garage at his home in Western Canada, so he had it shipped to Green in Arlington, Va.
Green said he's up to five Easton Stealth CNT sticks now and he uses them sparingly, and never in practice. He nursed 15 Easton Stealths throughout 2008-09 season.
"I want to save them for playoffs," Green said.
The Capitals haven't clinched yet, but they're in position to do so as the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They have a six-point cushion for a wild card, and are three points behind the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Washington plays at home against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; FSN-CR, CSN-DC).
After talking about his stick, Green talked about his season, his future as a pending unrestricted free agent, and the Capitals' chances in the following Q&A.
Here are Five (and a bonus) Questions with Mike Green:
A key stat of yours that jumped out to me was ice time. You exceeded 20 minutes of ice time in 10 of your first 19 games, but only in 11 of the past 46. Now some of these games you're in the 19:50s range so take that for what it's worth, but it's not around 22, 23, 24 or 25 as it had been for you in the past. Has playing fewer minutes been better for your overall game?
"Well, I definitely enjoy playing a lot of minutes and sort of a more prominent role, but in this case this is my role now for this team and I think it's helped me in the sense of being able to stay healthy throughout the season. When you log a lot of minutes and you are an offensive defenseman you can get targeted at times, and in that case you can sustain injuries. It's been a good balance. I'm comfortable with my role right now. Sometimes you've gotta put your ego aside for the betterment of the team."
Is your role more defined this season than it has been in the past?
"Absolutely. That's all you desire for as a player is to know exactly what your role is and then you take pride in doing so. Sometimes, especially as an offensive defenseman, you look to be the guy who gets up the ice and scores goals and plays high risk, but you have to stay at home sometimes. Finding that balance is hard at times so knowing where I stand and how we need to play as a team as far as structure in system is very detailed and very organized, and it's comforting coming to the rink knowing that.
Can you explain some of the differences in your game, or at least what they're asking you to do now, as opposed to what it was like under previous coaches?
"They encourage us to push the pace, to move up the ice as a five-man unit, and really there is a lot of support. Before I don't think we had any support, whether it was defense to defense, forwards to forwards, or defense to forwards. There was no structure in that sense and it made it difficult to read off each other and attack, and therefore it was kind of a lost cause. With Barry [coach Barry Trotz] everything is very detailed, very structured. We're encouraged by Todd Reirden to get up into the play and to jump because it does create confusion for the other team."
How are you dealing with the idea that you don't know your future, if you're going to be in Washington next season or somewhere else because of your pending free agency?
Defense - WSH
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 33 | PTS: 40
SOG: 146 | +/-: 12
"Well, the future right now is here in Washington. My heart is here in Washington and our main goal as a team is focused on the same thing, which is the Stanley Cup. That's where I'm at right now in my head. Knowing that I'm still here I'm going to make sure I do my best to be part of this team, to win a Cup, and we'll see what happens from there. That's all you can really do. It's definitely something you can think about. You can't ignore it, that's for sure. That's sort of the business side of the game and we understand that as a players, especially since I've been in the game now for 10 years. I've been fortunate to play with one team, but we'll see what happens. I hope I stay, but you never know. I say my heart is in Washington because I want to win a Cup here."
Why, if the Capitals make the playoffs, does this team have it in them to do something special this spring?
"I think we have it all on paper. We have all the components we need on paper. The difference from past years to this year is we're a tight-knit group this year. We've done the things that we needed to do to become close and battle for each other on the ice. Barry has been a big part of that, obviously. With that moving forward I think it's a key component, something you don't see as much on the ice but it can help teams win championships."
Do you think this team is better suited to win a championship this season than even the team that won the Presidents' Trophy in 2009-10?
"Oh absolutely. It's feelings. I think we're definitely more structured than we've ever been. The whole team has bought into that structure. The relationship and camaraderie outside the rink is the best it's ever been. I think we're getting older and a little more mature in the sense that we're all focusing on the same thing now."