Contract looming, Mike Green must excel
With less than six minutes remaining in Saturday's Game 4, Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green changed the course of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He took a pass from Dennis Wideman during a Capitals power play, recognized the time he had and utilized it by crushing a huge slap shot that beat Henrik Lundqvist.
The Capitals won 3-2, evening the series at two games, and Green provided a glimpse of the player who was once the most electrifying defenseman in the game. It was his first point against the Rangers and his second goal in 11 playoff games. Before scoring against Boston in Game 6 of the first round, Green hadn't scored since October. Injuries cut the heart out of Green's regular season again, as he played in only 32 games after seeing just 49 the season before.
He had to find his game post-groin surgery in the second half of the season while learning a new system under a new coach. With that coach came new expectations.
"I used to be the guy to go up the ice and create offense from the back end, and we don't play that way as much," Green said when we chatted last week. "It's not going to be as much points from the D-men unless it's on the power play."
Hunter's message when Green returned? "Play simple and that's that," the coach said to his blueliner.
That simple game doesn't produce the kind of eye-popping numbers that earn huge contracts when negotiations heat up. Green's goal against the Bruins was his first with Hunter behind the bench. Under Bruce Boudreau, Green was a two-time Norris finalist and had two consecutive 70-plus point seasons. He was paid like it. He is in the final year of a contract that averaged $5.25 million per season and he's slated to become a restricted free agent July 1.
That $5 million salary is a very reasonable number for someone contending for a Norris Trophy, but what's a reasonable expectation from Green now?
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