Heading into Thursday night's action, can anyone guess who the top goal scoring defenseman in the NHL is? Souray? Huh? He’s just back from an injury! Gonchar? Close, but no cigar. How about a guy who only scored two goals in 70 NHL games last year?
The Capitals Mike Green is currently leading NHL defensemen in goal scoring with eight. Last season, only two defensemen had 20 or more goals; Sheldon Souray had 26 and Dan Boyle scored 20. This season Mr Green is on pace to score 21 goals, 37 points and 90 penalty minutes.
Before we gaze into the future, let’s take a look back. In his last year of junior hockey, he scored 66 points, was plus-36 and had 105 penalty minutes in 67 games for Saskatoon. The Washington Capitals selected Green with their third pick (29th overall) in the 2004 entry draft.
In Green’s first professional season, he had 43 points along with 79 penalty minutes in 56 games for the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Then along comes the playoffs. Green scored 18 points in 21 games and was a sweet plus-16.
Last year, Green played 70 NHL games, scoring an underwhelming two goals and 12 points. He managed to play in the NHL Young Stars game. In addition, he played 12 games in the AHL, scoring eight points. In last year’s AHL playoffs, Green led all defensemen in scoring with 16 points in 19 games.
That brings us to this year and his fantastic pre-season. Green scored six points in four games, only two points shy of the top pre-season scorers, which included Jason Spezza and Paul Stastny. Some people saw it as merely a product of playing against training camp opponents. Others hoped it was a sign of things to come.
Green is averaging 19:39 of ice time per game and over 23 minutes per game since Bruce Boudreau took over as interim coach. It’s interesting to note that Boudreau coached Green during his stint in the AHL. That rapport with the coach is making Green more comfortable on the ice and is allowing him to play with increasing confidence.
Washington is 6-3-1 since the coaching change. Green has scored five goals, seven points and is plus-8 over that period. Wednesday night’s game was very impressive for the 22-year-old. He logged a game high 30:05 of ice time, was plus-3 and had the game winner in OT to go along with two assists earlier in the game. He played almost six minutes more than the next Caps defenseman and a whopping 7:36 on the power play.