Capitals Notebook: Green focusing on his defense, not scoring
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ARLINGTON, Va. -- A goal and four assists in eight games isn't a bad playoff line for a defenseman.
Unless you're Washington's Mike Green, a finalist for the Norris Trophy who led NHL defensemen in the regular season with 31 goals and 73 points. Then those postseason numbers might look a little pale.
Nothing is wrong, he said yesterday after skipping an optional practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. He's just narrowing his role for the postseason.
"During the season, you can maybe jump into holes and take a little more risk," Green said. "Now, it's unnecessary. When you're not doing that, it's tough to get points as a defenseman."
Green set an NHL record for defensemen in the regular season by scoring in eight consecutive games. His only goal in the playoffs came on a power play in Game 6 of the first round against the New York Rangers.
That was after coach Bruce Boudreau requested he started joining the play a little more against the Rangers.
Green, who had no points in the Capitals' 3-2 win Saturday in Game 1 against the Penguins, didn't need to be told that he needs to revert to being cautious when it comes to the offensive side of his game against Washington's skilled second-round opponent. He averaged 3.6 shots a game during the season but has fewer than two per game in the playoffs.
"My job is to play defense first," he said.
"If I see a chance to jump and it's right -- it has to be 100 percent -- then I'll do it."
Boudreau approves, although he doesn't want Green to change his game too much.
"I don't mind him scoring, either," he said. "I just tell Mike, 'Mike, be Mike. Don't try to be somebody you're not. I know you're smart enough to play great defensively and you're smart enough to go when you have to go. Just don't be somebody you're not.'"
The man with the fluffy Mohawk hairstyle doesn't have any trouble altering his approach for the playoffs, or even for each postseason opponent, although he could do without any reminders.
"It's a tough adjustment because I always have to hear about it in the media, how things aren't going well," Green deadpanned.
With four Russian teammates, rookie-sensation goaltender Simeon Varlamov has people to talk to, and his lack of communication with English-speakers hasn't stopped him from winning four consecutive games and climbing to or near the top of the playoff statistics for his position.
"He's just a quiet, unassuming guy," said Boudreau, who switched from veteran Jose Theodore after Washington's first playoff game.
"He would hang out with the Russian guys, and everybody seemed to like him. He's not coming over and being a rah-rah guy with me."
Or anything else.
"I haven't talked to him since he went in," Boudreau said, but quickly made it clear it wasn't anything personal. "I'll say good morning to him."
Varlamov has played in seven postseason games after appearing in just six in the regular season. His combined totals are impressive: 9-2-1, two shutouts (both in the playoffs), a .935 save percentage and a 1.77 goals-against average.
Varlamov seems to understand a good bit of English but is reluctant to speak it, a situation reminiscent of the one Penguins center Evgeni Malkin was in during his first couple seasons in the NHL.
One of Varlamov's Russian teammates has been encouraging him to try.
"Just go out there and don't be afraid to talk," forward Viktor Kozlov told Varlamov. "Everybody in this country is so nice if they see you trying to learn the language."
The language barrier hasn't been significant enough to keep Boudreau from learning about Varlamov's game.
"He's very competitive, which is what I am finding out," the coach said.
Fourteen players participated in the optional practice. ... The Capitals have killed 30 of the past 32 opponent power plays (93.8 percent), including all five of the Penguins' in Game 1. ... Center David Steckel said the referees were not to blame for the Capitals being called for five penalties, the Penguins just two. "I thought we earned all our penalties," he said. "They did a great job and played disciplined hockey, but we didn't work hard to draw very many penalties." ... Boudreau sees some merit to having his team stay in a hotel on nights before home games in the playoffs, but so far has not done so. "I'm a pretty superstitious guy," he said. "We don't want to change the things we're doing unless we fail."
First Published May 4, 2009 12:00 am