If I had voted for Mike Green for the Norris Trophy, I’d be sick to my stomach right about now.
How’s this for a stat line in a decisive and much-hyped Game 7: 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 0 Points, 0 SOG, tied for a team-high 4 giveaways, a team-worst plus/minus rating of -3, plus a 4th goal against on the Penguins power play for good measure. Keep that guy the heck away from my franchise.
Want even worse? The lowlight of Green’s relaxing evening was watching passively as Jordan Staal moved the puck unmolested past him on the end boards, followed moments later by waiting politely behind Staal as he dinked home Pittsburgh’s fifth goal. If that sequence didn’t have “quit” written all over it, you’ll have to explain exactly what the hell it was to me.
Rarely is surrender so stark and obvious, which is why the media often gets chastised over the suggestion of quitting in any sport – As long as there is doubt, there can be interpretation, and a good story can be spun after the fact. There’s no doubt on this one.
I cannot believe that I was watching a playoff hockey elimination game, let alone any brand of professional hockey, aside from perhaps an exhibition game. In fact, you might see a more intense defensive effort in an All-Star game. If you can wave the white flag in the second period of a Conference Semifinals Game 7 down a mere 4-0 when you’ve got Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and at least some shell of Mike Green on your team, you will embarrass the Norris Trophy presentation by even showing up, 31 bleeping regular season goals or not. So stay home and let true competitors like Nicklas Lidstrom and Zdeno Chara get their accolades.
Give me Mark Streit for the Norris anyway.
It was bad enough that Iron Mike was a virtual no-show in the Rangers series, a series where the Capitals should have easily outclassed their offensively-challenged opponents. As far as physical play was concerned, defensemen Tom Poti, Milan Jurcina and John Erskine flew the Caps flag high, laying the lumber on the Blue Shirts, giving at least as much as they got from the likes of Sean Avery and company. Poti even put up a goal and 3 assists in Game 6. Big bad number 52 didn’t seem to have the stomach for playoff hockey against either the Rangers or the Penguins.
Take a look at the table below to see how the postseason stats for Washington’s main defensemen stacked up against their regular season stats. While Green’s points per game remained at a relatively high level, his goals per game, shooting percentage and plus/minus plummeted – This matches what we all have seen with our own eyes. Conversely, Poti stepped up his modest point production considerably while both Poti and Jurcina posted a much improved plus/minus and shooting percentage. Incidentally, those were the two men who you heard sound bites from after Game 7.
Washington defensemen, regular season vs. playoffs
Regular Season Playoffs
Player G A P +/- S% G A P +/- S%
Mike Green 31 42 73 +24 12.8 1 8 9 -5 4.2
Milan Jurcina 3 11 14 +1 3.2 2 0 2 +6 20.0
Tom Poti 3 10 13 +3 6.3 2 5 7 +8 15.4
Shaone Morrisonn 3 10 13 +4 6.0 0 1 1 +1 0.0
John Erskine 0 4 4 +1 0.0 0 1 1 +1 0.0
Brian Pothier 1 2 3 +0 12.5 0 2 2 +1 0.0
How’s this for an indictment from your own coach? Green’s total ice time in Game 7 was 13:52, sixth out of six Washington defensemen, three minutes less than any other defenseman logged.
Finally, a comical exclamation point to the evening, to complete the piling on. Green managed to give his own goaltender an ice shower after Sidney Crosby scored the unassisted goal to put Pittsburgh up 6-1. Thanks, dude! Take a look, it’s worth a chuckle. You can’t make this up.
To be fair, there were a lot of no-shows for the Caps tonight. I’m sure that many other rants have focused on the implosion of 20 year old Simeon Varlamov, former Golden Child of this year’s playoffs. Admittedly, Game 7 was like shooting fish in a barrel for the Penguins skaters, attested to by the fact that some pretty unlikely names, like Craig Adams, made the scoresheet. Boudreau was right to pull the deer out of the headlights at 4-0. He actually could have done it a goal before, as it was clear that the young Russian’s confidence was shot after the first couple of goals. Then again – uh-oh – Jose Theodore was the alternative. Now that’s a no win situation for the Coach.
On the other side of the puck, this kind of game is what we call a points grab. Want a chance at the Conn Smythe Trophy? Make sure you grab lots of extra points on a night like this to pad your playoff stats. Evgeni and Sidney, this means you.
Let’s share the wealth a bit more. How about the highly skilled Capitals forwards making something happen, like perhaps drawing the odd penalty or two as a lark? Not one power play for Washington tonight. Can you believe it? That’s hard to pull off in an NHL game, if you’re trying, that is. How about an astonishing 19 giveaways by the Capitals versus 4 giveaways by the Penguins, including 10-0 in the first period?
Speaking of giveaways, were you wondering who tied our friend Mike Green with 4 giveaways? Yes, the other whopper of an egg laid tonight was by Alexander Semin. Here’s Semin’s line: 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 0 Points, -2 plus/minus, 2 SOG, 2 missed shots and a whopping 5 attempts blocked. There’s some vestige of desperate effort in 9 shot attempts, but an evening with 2 of 9 attempts on target, 4 giveaways and -2 plus/minus is a heck of an inefficient effort for what’s supposed to be a player of consummate skill.
In that sense, Alexander Semin is more puzzling than Mike Green, as Semin is actually a really underrated and exceptional regular season player. Taking into account that Semin missed 20 games early in the season, the 34 G, 45 A, 79 P of “the other Russian” would have prorated out to an impressive 45 G, 60 A, 105 P over 82 games – two more points than Sidney Crosby, only five less than teammate Alex Ovechkin and merely eight points shy of the league-leading Evgeni Malkin. He was the superstar you didn’t know. As you can see below, while Ovechkin raised his game in the playoffs and while most of his teammates treaded water, Semin was the other missing person of the Caps’ postseason. His team best +25 plus/minus turned into a team worst -1 plus/minus amongst the Capital top forwards:
Washington forwards, regular season vs. playoffs
Player G A P +/- S% G A P +/- S%
Alexander Ovechkin 56 54 110 +8 10.6 11 10 21 +10 12.2
Nicklas Backstrom 22 66 88 +16 12.6 3 12 15 +3 9.1
Alexander Semin 34 45 79 +25 15.2 5 9 14 -1 11.9
Brooks Laich 23 30 53 -1 12.4 3 4 7 +0 12.5
Viktor Kozlov 13 28 41 -9 8.5 4 2 6 +5 17.4
Tomas Fleischmann 19 18 37 -3 14.5 3 1 4 +0 13.6
Sergei Fedorov 11 22 33 +4 9.3 1 7 8 +1 4.2
Michael Nylander 9 24 33 +0 10.3 0 0 0 -1 0.0
The positives for the Capitals were few and far between tonight. Alex Ovechkin gave an honest effort. Sometimes not enough shots go in. The young superstar was clearly crushed by Varlamov’s collapse, as was apparent from his clear disbelief and disappointment on the bench. We understand, Alex – It shows that you care. That’s saying something.
Tom Poti was +2 for the night. He can go home tonight with his head held high.
We can give the young Varlamov a mulligan on this one, as he stabilized the Caps’ ship in round 1 against the Rangers and battled hard against world class players for most of the Pittsburgh series. They wouldn’t have made it this far without him.
All Caps, all the time? I’ll finish with a quick note on the Penguins. Having seen him interviewed during the Flyers series and now during the Caps series, I’ve really taken a liking to the goofy, grinning, heavily-accented kid behind the goalie’s mask and the high-falutin’ French name, Marc-Andre Fleury. The 24 year old just looks happy to be there, humble and deferential. He could easily be confused for someone your teenage son hangs out with. That said, many folks don’t give Fleury his due as a potential difference maker in the playoffs, and that’s selling a young man who helped his team reach the finals short. Don’t be surprised if you see the goofy, grinning Fleury hoisting the Stanley Cup a few weeks from now.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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