The good news surrounding the Capitals this week is more than just their current hot streak which has provided 10 wins in their last 11 games. Tomorrow will mark the day that Mike Green is eligible to come of the long term injured list. If Bruce Boudreau and George McPhee are smart, Mike Green won’t be playing for another week, possible two weeks.
Let me emphatically say that there is no reason for Mike Green to return to the lineup tomorrow against the Philadelphia Flyers. Yes, the Capitals will have an opportunity to tie the Flyers for the Eastern Conference lead, but the goal set forth at the beginning of the season was to win more than the Eastern Conference. The overall health of Mike Green entering the post season is more important than the two points tomorrow night.
Mike Green suffered what everyone outside of the Capitals organization knows to be a concussion. Seems these days teams are coming up with all kinds of different names to use in an effort to avoid using the dreaded word “concussion”. Can you blame them? No other type of injury is receiving as much publicity as concussions, and for good reason. Whether it’s referred to as “upper body injury”, “vertigo, or “inner-ear trauma”; the bottom line is that head injuries are the number threat facing NHL hockey players these days. Just look to Marc Savard and Sidney Crosby as examples. In both situations, months were needed for recovery, and in Crosby’s case, his season may still be hanging in the balance. The situations facing Crosby and Savard are exactly what the Capitals must avoid with Mike Green.
Look to Marc Savard for further evidence into the danger associated with concussions. With the playoffs looming a season ago, Marc Savard attempted to make a return to the Bruins lineup after the blind-side hit he took from Matt Cooke. Certainly I wouldn’t fault Savard for wanting to return to the game he loves on the game’s biggest stage. But it was obvious he wasn’t ready. When guys healing from concussions return to quickly, there is an increased likelihood of having another concussion. Fast forward to this season, and there is serious doubt that Marc Savard will ever play in the NHL again. This is the reality of concussions and Mike Green is no exception.
Thankfully the Caps have the personnel on the roster to survive without Mike Green’s services. The addition of Dennis Wideman to the lineup at the trade deadline is paying dividends. Since Wideman’s addition, which coincidentally coincides almost exactly with the hit Green took from Derek Stepan, the Capitals are 9-1-0. The Capitals are 10-1-0 since Green’s injury and have surged from 6th in the Eastern Conference to 2nd in the conference. The reason for this is the similarity in style between Wideman and Green’s game. Both earn their paychecks moving the puck and being power play specialists (granted, it’s a hard sell to call anyone on the Caps a power play specialist this season). Both are dependable in their own zone.
Dennis Wideman is also logging big time minutes with the Capitals. Wideman is now averaging 23.14 minutes per game. Included in that is 2.33 minutes of ice time on the penalty kill. Wideman’s relative Corsi rating is third best among defenseman, trailing only Green and John Carlson. Since coming over from the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline, Wideman is +7 in his 10 games with the Capitals. He has been a minus in just one game – a game the Capitals won. Wideman is without question filling the void left in Mike Green’s absence. What is an even scarier proposition for Eastern Conference foes is the depth the Caps will have when Green does return. All three defensive pairings will have dynamic puck moving defenseman in Green, Wideman, and Carlson. The power play, in theory, should get a boost as well.
The Capitals are in good shape despite not having Mike Green in the lineup. The best thing is not to rush Green back into the lineup. His health is the most important thing. The team has proven that they can fill Green’s void and win games in his absence. Mike Green should return no earlier than March 29, the Capitals next home game against the Carolina Hurricanes. There is just no reason to do otherwise.
About the Author: Jeremy is a life time hockey fan currently living in Washington DC. Jeremy also runs a Capitals blog called The Nation's Capitals where he frequently posts blogs about the state of the Caps. His other interests include music and politics. Jeremy has a degree in Political Science. Being from DC, politics kind of comes with the territory.