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Capitals' Mike Green: 'We're going to win it'

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Capitals' Mike Green: 'We're going to win it'

Mike Green had every reason to be bitter about his 2011-12 season. Injuries limited him to just 32 games and resulted in his lowest offensive totals three goals, four assists in six years.

So why was the Capitals 26-year-old defenseman smiling days after his teams second-round playoff elimination by the New York Rangers?

I feel mentally, as far as the game, the best Ive ever felt, and physically the same, Green said. You get your bumps and bruises, but I feel great. I feel like I did four or five years ago on the ice and thats comforting.

An ankle injury and abdominal tear forced Green to miss 50 of the Capitals first 57 games this season and when he returned on Feb. 18 his offensive game suffered. Green failed to record a goal in his final 22 games.

Under Dale Hunter, Green was asked to focused on his defensive game and by the playoffs he believes he was playing some of the best two-way hockey of his career.

I felt that I played strong when the time was right, as far as playoffs, said Green, who in 14 playoff games recorded two goals, two assists and was a plus-5 while average 23:45 in ice time.

I was just starting to get my feel back again and unfortunately its come to an end at this point. I felt good, but I wish that I didnt have to go through what I went through this year. I was really excited about this season but Im focused now mentally on next season.

Of the Capitals four restricted free agents John Carlson, Jay Beagle and Mathieu Perreault are the others placing a value on Green may be difficult. He is coming off a four-year, 21 million contract signed after establishing himself as one of the NHLs most explosive offensive players.

Under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, to retain his rights the Capitals are required to make Green a qualifying offer equal to his 2011-12 salary of 5 million.

Thats something that well talk about, Im sure, after things settle down here, Green said, Im excited to come back if thats the game plan. Thats what I want, but well see.
After four seasons of playing no fewer than 68 games, Green has missed 83 games the past two seasons and that could impact the term and value of his next contract. In all likelihood Green will accept only a one-year deal that will take him into unrestricted free agency at the age of 27 next year.

If the Caps cannot come to an agreement with Green, they likely would receive a first-, second- and third-round draft pick, dependent on his 2012-13 salary and the rules of a new CBA.

Green made no bones about his desire to return to Washington for an eighth season.
Absolutely, I love it here, he said. This is a great organization, a great city and I believe that were going to win a Cup here and I want to be a part of it.

Green believes that although the Capitals have not made it past the second round of the playoffs since his arrival, they are closer to winning a Stanley Cup than at any time during his tenure.

Weve been improving each year, especially this year, and I feel like were close, he said.
Maybe if a few more bounces go our way and we work a little harder and focus a little harder, were right there. Were going to win it. Its just unfortunate that it wasnt this year.
Green said he saw the Capitals grow closer together under the direction of Hunter, a step he feels is necessary if the Caps want to be considered serious contenders.

I think that over the course of the year we became really tight and I think it was evident in the playoffs with the way we played for each other and guys going down to block shots, he said. We had a young goaltender Braden Holtby come in that a lot of guys didnt know and we played our hearts out for him and he played his heart out for us and that just goes to show the character in the dressing room.

We have the talent and the skill. It comes down to one game and thats the tough part about this sport. You lose by one goal and thats the end of your season. It wasnt a lack of effort or heart or determination, it just didnt work out for us.

Green said the final two rounds of the playoffs are sometimes the most difficult to watch, especially when he thinks about what the Capitals could have done against the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.

I usually follow whats going on, he said. Once you see who wins and you see who you could have beaten, then you can kind of put it to rest.

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Almost a quarter into the season, Todd Reirden still does not have his full roster 

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Almost a quarter into the season, Todd Reirden still does not have his full roster 

In his first year as an NHL head coach, Todd Reirden is well aware that all eyes are on him. Stepping in to coach the defending Stanley Cup champions is a favorable position in many ways, but it does mean Reirden will be under more scrutiny than most coaches in their first year.

For a first-year coach already facing pressure to succeed, it does not help that the season has already thrown a number of curve balls in terms of the roster.

“Coaching the defending champions is a unique challenge in itself,” Reirden told NBC Sports Washington in a recent interview, “But I think for the most part that I haven't had much time to spend on that because I've been busy working on different lineups every night.”

With very few departures in the offseason, Washington was able to bring back the vast majority of its Stanley Cup winning team for the 2018-19 season, something that was considered a major strength of the team heading into the new season.

So far, however, we have seen much more roster attrition from the Caps than consistency.

Now 18 games into the season, Reirden has not had his full roster available to him at any point.

Tom Wilson missed the first 16 games of the season due to suspension, Brooks Orpik is currently on long-term injured reserve, Michal Kempny missed the start of the season because of a concussion and missed Wednesday’s game due to an illness, Travis Boyd has played in only five games due to a lower-body injury he suffered in training camp and Braden Holtby was a surprise scratch on Wednesday with an upper-body injury that required the team dress an emergency backup goalie in Winnipeg. Even John Carlson sat out a game with a lower-body injury.

Things may get worse before they get better given Evgeny Kuznetsov left Wedensday’s game early with an upper-body injury, T.J. Oshie appeared dazed after getting slammed to the ice by Josh Morrissey and Holtby is still considered day-to-day.

The rest of the league, however, does not care about the Caps’ suspensions and injuries. Washington does not get extra points in the standings because they have missed so many players and there are no asterisks next to Reirden’s head coaching record.

In the early part of the season, Reirden’s focus has had to shift from bringing the defending champs back to their championship form to simply surviving the team’s current roster attrition while facing questions as to why the team has been so inconsistent all the while.

Reirden has enjoyed the challenge.

“I think it's allowed us to really focus on what gives us the best chance to win, putting guys in different situations, manipulating lineups against other teams and what they have as the strengths in their lineup and how we can combat that,” he said. “So it's been a challenge from that standpoint in terms of moving our lines around and different components. That's made it a little bit more challenging, but that's the part I really enjoy is making those adjustments in house and figuring out how to set up things for success.”

Reirden has certainly not been shy about changing his line combinations or the defensive pairings early in the season as he searched to find the right fit for each spot, each situation. The return of Wilson certainly seems to have made things more clear on the offensive lines, at least in terms of the top-nine.

But while the early suspension and the team’s early injury woes have led to some early struggles and while this certainly is not the start that Reirden would have hoped for in his first season, he is taking a big picture view of it all and stressing the positives.

There’s not much more that this season could throw at the Caps that Reirden and the team has not already had to adjust to.

“It's probably been part of the reason we've had some inconsistency is because of the different changes we've had with different lines and different D-pairs,” Reirden said. “But in the long run, it'll actually help prepare us for adversity that comes to us down the road.”

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

The Department of Player Safety announced Thursday that Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey was fined $8,467.74 for his body slam of T.J. Oshie in Wednesday’s game. It is a punishment that falls well short of the standard the DPS itself set earlier this season.

Late in Wednesday’s game between the Caps and Jets, Oshie skated to the corner of the offensive zone after the puck while locked in a physical battle with Morrissey. Morrissey checked Oshie into the boards, then, as he was falling back, Morrissey slammed Oshie down to the ice. Oshie appeared to be dazed after the play which is troubling given his history of concussions.

There is nothing wrong with the initial hit. Both players were battling for the puck making Oshie eligible to be hit. The problem is after the hit when Morrissey slams him to the ice afterward, which is unnecessary and dangerous.

Oh, c’mon, you may be saying, Morrissey was just finishing his check! That’s not an argument anymore considering the DPS already suspended a player for doing the exact same thing earlier this season when Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice. Matheson was suspended two games for the play.

Matheson’s suspension was a matter of some debate within the hockey community not just because some argued Matheson was finishing his check on a hockey play, but because it was made to look worse by the fact that Pettersson is only 176 pounds, nearly 20 pounds lighter than Matheson. The DPS didn’t buy it and Matheson was suspended.

If you compare the Morrissey and the Matheson hits, they are very similar. Matheson hits Pettersson with a legal check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. Matheson then slammed Pettersson to the ice after the initial check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. One can quibble somewhat with the fact that Petterrsson’s skates came off the ice making the throw down more violent, but the two plays are similar enough that, in my opinion, it is fair to compare them and the corresponding punishment. In fact, one could easily argue that the Morrissey hit is worse considering he and Oshie are both listed as 195 pounds. Oshie didn’t go down to the ice because of a size disparity, Morrissey had to physically slam him down.

In addition, Morrissey is considered a repeat offender after getting suspended in the 2018 playoffs for a crosscheck to Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal. To be fair, being a repeat offender is not supposed to affect the DPS’s decision on whether a play is worthy of a suspension or not, it is only meant to be taken into consideration when determining the length of a suspension.

But the remains that the DPS was presented with two very similar plays within one month of each other and came up with two completely different punishments. That is more than a little head scratching.

The DPS has one of the toughest jobs in hockey. No matter what they do, most people are going to be unhappy with the decisions they make. It’s the nature of the job when it comes to determining supplemental discipline. Having said that, the one thing people should be able to expect from the DPS is consistency. The Morrissey hit on Oshie seemed like a slam-dunk considering a very similar play happened a month before and resulted in a two-game suspension.

But hey, Caps fans can at least take comfort in the fact that Morrissey was issued the maximum fine allowed by the CBA. So there’s that.

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