Despite not leading their division at the halfway mark for the season for the first time in two years, the Washington Capitals finally are sending a buddy for Alex Ovechkin to the All-Star Game in Raleigh: Mike Green.
It was a forgone conclusion that Ovechkin would be named to his fourth straight All-Star Game (even though his numbers have taken a hit this year), but Green was a bit of a surprise. He is on pace for one of if not the worst offensive season of his career. Leading scoring among defensemen didn’t help him when he was left off the roster in 2008. Being on the road to 31 goals and an NHL record didn’t help him in 2009. So, why now?
While his offensive numbers may be down (on pace for a 17 goal, 26 assist season), he is possibly having his best defensive season to date. Defense is difficult to measure by numbers, so one has to judge it by something intangible: sight.
Watching Mike Green this season, it is obvious he has committed more in his own zone. The result has been him single-handedly taking over games more often, like a game on December 23rd against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Green finished the game with a goal, but he carried the play and played upwards of 30 minutes throughout the 65-minute game. He nearly ended the game in overtime, but Fleury covered it up and the video review was inconclusive.
There have been many more of these types of games for Green this year, like last Saturday night against Florida. Only one of those dominating performances comes to mind from last season: a game in October against the New York Islanders, when Green tied up the game at one before feeding Brooks Laich for the game-winner in OT.
Green has also upped the intensity physically. He is delivering a lot more destructive body blows lately. He has absorbed puck after puck, sacrificing on the penalty kill in addition to even strength.
However, possibly the most important change Green has made this season is his off-ice demeanor and maturity. He seems to have taken on a leadership role, holding both himself and his teammates accountable. He has talked the talk about changing his habits to sustain his body and mind for the long haul, and the results of that transformation seem to finally be coming to fruition.
It’s finally Mike Green’s turn to get recognized, and that begins with his first trip to the All-Star game. A snub-no-more. And to think it only took three years of leading all defensemen in offense.