-- Mike Green
knows his role for the Washington Capitals
. Nothing has changed since he concluded the regular season as the NHL’s highest-scoring defenseman, and nothing will change so long as his team continues to make headway in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"As a defenseman, the most important pass is the first one out, and as long as we get the puck in our forwards’ hands, we'll be fine," Green said. "(Our forwards) seem to do a good enough job of getting up ice and creating, so our job as defenders is to jump on pucks and get it to them and we'll be fine."
There's no question Green stuck to his defensive guns during his team's seven-game win over the New York Rangers
in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. After scoring 31 goals and 73 points in 68 regular-season games, Green was limited to just 1 goal and 5 points in his club's first-round win. Green admits that if he fails to record even one more point and the Capitals advance, he'd be delighted.
"I'd be absolutely fine with that," Green said. "You guys might thing there's something wrong with that, but not me."
There's no question Green has one of the quickest releases you'll ever see. But he also realizes this isn't the regular season, so he can’t risk putting his team at a defensive disadvantage by going for goals.
He'll look to solidify his play in the defensive end, first and foremost, when the Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins
in Game 1 Saturday at Verizon Center (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"The playoffs are a whole different game and guys are that much sharper, that much faster. For myself, it's just not worth getting caught in the play," Green said. "I mean, we have skilled-enough forwards that can get the job done, so I'll play defense. I'll contribute as much as I can offensively, but there's no need for me to play out of position."
To that end, coach Bruce Boudreau
was extremely pleased with Green's performance in his team's series against the Rangers.
"We played the New York Rangers
, the best defensive team in the League with arguably one of the top three goaltenders in the League that play a very solid defensive system," Boudreau said. "They're the No. 1 penalty-killing unit in the League, so you don't expect guys to average a ton of points a game. Mike had five points in seven games, played 26 minutes a night, and our team had the best seven-game stretch defensively that we'd had since I've been here. So to me, he did everything right except maybe score points. I mean, our top scorer (Alexander Semin
) had eight points in seven games. I don't expect (Green) to score every game, and sometimes he puts too much pressure on himself because that's what people expect. If Chris Pronger
had done that, they would have lauded him as the MVP of the series."
Green, who averaged 25:35 of ice time in the opening round, is actually fourth among defensemen in the playoffs behind teammate Tom Poti
(6 points) and Chicago defensemen Brent Seabrook
(7 points) and Cam Barker
(6 points). Barker is tops among all with three playoff goals.
Green said that perhaps against Pittsburgh, there might be more of an opportunity to produce because both teams are so offensively talented. But he's not making any promises.
"Maybe there will be more holes that we didn't have against New York," Green said. "It's tough on us defensemen. (Pittsburgh) is great down low and we're aware that (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin are good around the net. We have to make sure we shut them down, but that's the challenge. Still, we're not going to go out of our way to cover those two guys, but when they're out on the ice, we have to be aware of them and take their time and space away."
said Green didn't need to take his offensive game to another level to have an impact in the opening round.
"Basically, I can just give him the puck and he does most of the work," Morrisonn said with a smile. "He's one of those guys who reads the ice so well getting it out of our zone. He can start the rush because of his speed and I'm really just here as a safety valve for him to help out defensively. Offensively, we have more puck possession and his defensive approach has definitely improved since entering the League (in 2005-06)."
Boudreau admitted he always stresses one thing to his standout blue liner.
"I just tell Mike to be Mike," Boudreau said. "I don't want him to be somebody he's not. I tell him to 'be yourself.' I know he's smart defensively and smart enough to know when to go on offense."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.