Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green says becoming an NHL scoring machine has much to do with his coach Bruce Boudreau.
It has been since the free-wheeling Boudreau replaced the defensive-minded Glen Hanlon behind the bench early in the 2007-08 season that Green has become the NHL’s hottest-scoring defenceman.
“My first couple of years with the Capitals, they definitely tried to steer me away from playing offensively or making any types of plays,” Green said this week. “As an offensive-minded guy, it really limited what I could do and therefore,I wasn’t very effective.
“So now, with the free reins I have with Bruce, you can really use your skills.”
Green went on to lead NHL defencemen last season with 18 goals among his 56 points and kept it going into the current campaign. He went into a game Wednesday night against Montreal with 22 goals in 44 games this season and earned an NHL record along the way.
The Calgary native scored in eight consecutive games, eclipsing former Boston Bruin Mike O’Connell’s record of seven by a defenceman set in 1983-’84. The streak ended in the Capitals’ 4-2 win Sunday against Florida.
“Records and stats, I’m not a big follower of,” Green said. “I was aware of the record about two days before (tying the record in) New York and obviously wanted to reach it, but I didn’t get too worked up about trying to do it because, if I would have tried, it wouldn’t have worked out the way it did.
“But I’m pretty happy that it happened.”
He also got to celebrate it with his father, Dave, who was on the trip with other Caps’ dads, when he broke the record in Tampa.
Now he has a shot at becoming the first NHL defenceman to score 30 goals in a season since another Capital, Kevin Hatcher, had 34 in 1992-’93.
“If it comes to 30 goals and I reach that milestone it’s great,” he said. “But it’s not something I think about because if I think about it, then you’re wanting to go out and try things that may be outside your ordinary game.
“I want just to go out and play, and make sure I take advantage of the situations I’m in to score.”
Green has now become a strong bet to be named to Canada’s team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver but is quick to spread around credit for his achievements.
It starts with Boudreau, who encouraged Green’s sometimes risky jumps into the attack. Then he lauds the remarkable group of young talent the Caps have amassed with high draft picks from their lean years like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin.
The Caps scouts deserve credit too. Green was taken 29th overall in 2004, the same year Ovechkin went No. 1.
“When Bruce came here, our team became completely different and he was the reason why,” said Green, whose squad clawed its way into the playoffs for the first time in four years after Boudreau took over. “If Bruce would have been here from the start of last year, we would have been where we are now.
“The difference between this year and last year is that we’ve had a full season to get our points.”
Green has also fit right in with scoring and play-making stars like Ovechkin and Semin.
“These guys are incredible passers and playmakers and when guys are putting the puck right on your tape, you just have to put it in the net,” he said. “It makes it that much easier.
“Especially with our power play. (Ovechkin) is so dangerous that, if he gets a shot in close he, he’s going to score So to take him away is a smart thing to do, but it also leaves somebody else open and a lot of times, it’s me coming back door or whatnot.”
One knock against Green has been his defensive play. But this season he is second among defencemen at plus-28 while logging a heavy 25 minutes 33 seconds of ice time per game.
“Defensively, I wouldn’t say I’m where I want to be,” he admitted. “I really took it upon myself to be better defensively and complete my game, but I’m still young and learning and there’s things I have to develop.
“Because I’m offensive minded, at times I catch myself out of position and it makes it hard on me to skate all the way back, but from last year to this year, I’ve found a balance on when to jump into the play and when not to. It’s a lot easier on my body and my conditioning. I’m not six-foot-five, so I don’t run out there and hit guys, so I have to be in good position.”