Could One Hit Early on in the Playoffs Have Subdued Mike Green?

Cup'pa JoeRecently three puckheads congregated around a few rounds of puck sodas on a sticky late summer night, and the topic of Mike Green’s poor playoff showing arose. Among them this line of thought emerged: who in old media or new speculated that not only was Green likely playing injured for the Capitals during the postseason but that some of his decision-making and instincts on the ice could have been impaired by some manner of painkillers?

Green’s postseason performance was so conspicuously substandard, and sustained, far beyond any level of struggling he’d known before, we beer-sipping puckheads agreed. Is postulating that he played distinctly pained and numbed really an implausible line of speculation?

Of course we’ll never know for sure. But Greener’s springtime fall was so precipitous relative to his record-setting standards of mid-winter, something truly anomalous had to have been afflicting him. We didn’t much see him giddy-up-and-go with the puck as if with jet-propulsion through narrowly open lanes, and we didn’t much see him unleash his characteristic bomb from the point.

While Greener’s not renowned for physical play in his own end, he has early in his career showcased some orneriness and some level of body clearing ethos about the slot, and certainly defended along the corners and end boards with terrific competitiveness, and yet in the postseason he appeared physically unable of effectively engaging in such labor. In general, he didn’t much seem in possession of his amply demonstrated, elite vision and hockey sense shift after shift. With the truly great players, their brilliance is often executed as if the game were contested in slow motion, and yet last postseason, on so many of Mike Green’s shifts, it seemed as if the game couldn;t slow down fast enough for him. Pretty much, he seemed really off every postseason night.

This stretch of sub-standard performance seems a real outlier in his early career rather than a newly arrived wave of wild inconsistency. Something had to have been wrong — and quite likely, seriously wrong.

Green very well could have suffered a debilitating injury on this play in just the second game of the postseason:   

I don’t know about you, but my hockey playing after such a hit wouldn’t look quite polished and poised.

On Naslund’s game 2 crunch you’ll notice that Green’s back not only absorbed the brunt of the impact but that Greener’s head appeared to snap back against the boards.While it’s pure speculation, it’s eminently possible that Green could have sustained a mild concussion on the play. And the hit occurred early enough in the postseason to explain a lot of Green’s subsequent struggles. It’s mere speculation, but I don’t think it’s baseless.

Listening in on this speculation, and reconsidering Green’s larger achievements early on in his career, I found myself persuaded by this small consensus hypothesis. And it occurred to me that in the immediate aftermath of a brutally tough seven-game setback to a most-loathed rival, few of us are in position to diagnose all decisive factors — including relatively subtle ones (Green’s getting right up from the hit understandably would cause most to imagine that it didn’t have much impact on him) with the benefit of distance and dispassionate sobriety. We the savagely disappointed clad in red rather instinctively seek out scapegoats, and Mike Green surely knew his share of criticism for the Caps’ second round failure. But time often affords clarification.

We know that truly no hockey player enters a postseason 100 percent physically fit. The vast majority play through the pain.Some play through excruciating pain and make super-human, selfless sacrifices to remain in the lineup. This is especially so, I submit, with each team’s front-line players.

As we move toward the start of a very promising new season for the Caps I think we ought to give serious weight to the theory that something wildly anomalous befell Mike Green in the 2009 postseason, and that the circumstances were representative of, and directly contributory to, a true outlier of under-performance in his very elite game. Mike Green is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a linchpin of a Capitals’ Cup-contending team. When’s he’s reasonably healthy, he’s a game-changing force.

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11 Responses to Could One Hit Early on in the Playoffs Have Subdued Mike Green?

  1. vt caps fan says:

    In my opinion (as worthless as it is) yeah that hit aggravated his shoulder injury from earlier in the year. For about 3 or 4 games after that, he did not take a slap shot (even on the PP). And when he did, it had no ummpphh. That right there tells me he was not right.
    Not sure if a healthy Green would have changed the outcome of Gm7; but its behind us now and let’s just hope they improve off of last year.
    Let’s go Caps.

  2. I think you’re absolutely right about that hit, but I think it was easily his shoulder that took a big jolt on the landing. On top of that, there were a few nasty collisions with Sean Avery in game one that had me wondering as well, but I was up in the nosebleeds so I really couldn’t tell exactly how bad they were. For now I’m being optimistic and assuming at was exactly what you said it was: an outlier. We’ll see if he can stay healthier in ’10…we need it.

  3. CapsFan1975 says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that hit could be the major contributor to Green’s subpar play.
    Yes, the word was that he had reinjured his shoulder that was “pronged” in the Anaheim game back in November. (Gee whiz, I make up a word in honor of Chris Pronger.)
    I also heard that Green was ill (probably with mono) as well.
    Maybe a healthy Green would not have won us Game 7 vs the Pens but our chances would have been better. We probably would have “stolen” one of the other Pens wins that happened earlier.
    I hope both Green and Semin can be healthy for 2009-2010. It will help the Caps immensely.

  4. Dougeb says:

    Whether it was this hit, or a combination of mono and a non-healed shoulder injury, there is little doubt that Green was only about 60% of his usual self. Something physically wasn’t right — all his fans know this, yet some Caps fans and some in the media still harp on him for a sub-par playoff run.

  5. Eric says:

    We’re talking about the Stanley Cup Playoffs right? Guys have played and will play through far worse. It’s a question of mental toughness. Mind over body stuff. There are countless stories of it through the history of the game. I do not doubt he was injured. Probably 99% of the guys are skating through some kind of injury at that point in the season. I question his motivation, drive, and mental preparation as a leader for the team.

  6. Let’s be fair with regards to the whole mental toughness thing. The guy is still only 23 and only played in his second SCP this season. Not that toughness comes with age, but he’s not a grizzled vet yet. I do think that it’s something you can develop over time.

  7. Emily says:

    Why does no one question the decision to play him at all? How was his subpar play – no matter the cause – good for the team as a whole? We pull Jose Theodore after one bad night, but continue with a sick/injured Mike Green no matter how bad he is??? If a guy wants to play through and injury, and manages to go out there and perform well – fine, that’s his choice. But at some point, when an injured player is causing more harm than good, isn’t it better to pull them out? Of course, when the choice is between an injured Green, and Schultz, I don’t know if there really is a decision to be made.

  8. capsnchantilly says:

    I agree with Emily. The longer the playoffs went on the more the opposition pounced on Green”s timid, weak, lackadaisical passes. Forget the offence, he was not even an adequate defenseman. Mike green was a warrior for the team in the regular season, but the coaching decision to keep him in the games after he became a liability was a mistake. The resuslt of witch showed in the play of the team in game 7. The entire team does not have an off nite in game 7 of the “biggest “game 7 in history (tv quote).The cumulative effect of all the rest of the injuries and continuing to cover for Green (when there was adaquate help up north-Collins maybe?)undermined the team. I hope that it was something like that because if it was that “they wanted it more” we have bigger problems. Maybe the team should read up on the caps history to realise why some of us are so bitter about the loss. I stayed until the last moment and cheared the winners and the loosers, but I still turn the channel on the tv or nhl radio the second one of those comercials for wing-less fowl championship gear comes on. We as fans have to listen to “Sidney Crosby is the youngest Stanley Cup captian in the history of the NHL” for the rest of our lives and I think the team was perfectly capable of preventing that from happening and a whole lot more. I feel that only making it to the second round with that team was a dissapointment. Thank god for a new season!

  9. jhershb says:

    Right idea, wrong hit, I think–in one of the early games against the Rangers (not sure which), Green was clipped at high speed and crashed head-first into the boards behind his own net–watching from 404, I thought he had sustained at least a concussion and perhaps some sort of shoulder injury. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he concealed one or more concussions, as there were moments in the playoffs where his reactions definitely seemed below par.

  10. dmg says:

    “Of course, when the choice is between an injured Green, and Schultz, I don’t know if there really is a decision to be made.”
    Schultz was also hurt.

  11. daved says:

    i remember there was one game in the playoffs (i believe it was the rangers. but green was going in fast to check someone into the boards, but the player moved right before green was about to get him. green ends up going (left shoulder) hard into the boards. he gets up dazed as hell, and slowly skates off. he comes back later and one of the rangers checks him hard into the boards again.
    just something i remember from the series.

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