With only ten games remaining in the 2009-10 regular season for the Washington Capitals, many of the questions we were pondering in October have worked themselves out:
- Who should the Capitals rely upon as a starting goaltender? [Answer: Jose Theodore]
- What impact with the addition of Mike Knuble have on the organization? [Answer: 25 goals worth - and counting]
- Will Alex Ovechkin be able to repeat as the NHL's leading scorer? [Answer: So far, so good. Complete with a spiffy new haircut from Mama Ovi]
One considerable question, however, remains unanswered: After Mike Green's meltdown in the 2008-09 post-season, will he be able to perform at a level to help lead the Capitals to the Stanley Cup?
It's no secret that Green is having one hell of a season at 17-53-70 and a plus/minus rating of +30. He leads all League defensemen in assists, points, and goals - and only trails teammate Jeff Schultz (+36) in plus/minus. He is the highest active defensive goal scorer over a span of his first 300 games, and is one of thirteen blueliners in NHL history to post consecutive 70-point seasons. He's also set new career highs in assists and plus/minus, and is only 3 points away from tying his personal-best 73 points in a season.
But he was on fire last season too, setting a NHL record for his 8-game goal-scoring streak and racking up the highest goal (31) and point (73) total for a d-man leading to him being named as a Norris Trophy finalist. Things were looking up for MG52 until the playoffs when injury, illness, lack of gumption, poor decision making, or whatever else you might have heard through the rumor-mill took over. I feel that fatigue was the leading contributor to his 9 point postseason performance, and he might be set up to experience the similar let down in 2010.
Looking at a span of the ten games prior to the final ten games of the season, Green's average time on ice is nearly identical to last year's totals:
|Feb 28||26:27||Mar 3||25:13|
|Mar 1||23:11||Mar 4||23:51|
|Mar 3||27:53||Mar 6||26:42|
|Mar 5||31:03||Mar 8||28:17|
|Mar 8||27:53||Mar 10||26:22|
|Mar 10||28:50||Mar 12||28:37|
|Mar 12||23:33||Mar 14||30:23|
|Mar 14||26:27||Mar 16||23:04|
|Mar 16||DNP||Mar 18||26:26|
|Mar 17||21:09||Mar 20||24:36|
There are some other telling parallels between the two years too:
- Both spans involve 5 games on the road and 5 at the Verizon Center
- Both spans involve 4 games that required more than 60 minutes to determine a victor
- 2008-09 involves two sets of back-to-back games, while 2009-10 involves one back-to-back set
- 08-09 involves a span of 10 games in 18 days, while 09-10 involves a span of 10 games in 17 days
- While not included in the set, Green participated in a 4-game road swing March 16-20th in 08-09, as well as March 14-20 of 09-10
Hopefully we won't see the same catastrophic collapse from #52 in this year's playoffs, but if Green's ice time and health (perhaps why he was in a red jersey this morning) aren't properly monitored, we won't be able to rely on his abilities in late April. Perhaps a bit of the fatigue can be spotted already, as Green has been on the ice for the last three goals scored against the Caps, including the game-winner against Carolina. He has also not been on the positive side of the plus/minus since March 14th racking up 4 PIM in the 3 games since.
The addition of Joe Corvo, who can skate with the power play unit, should also assist with his overall maintenance but the onus needs to be on Green to call his own number as a healthy scratch knowing wins in June weigh far greater than wins in March.