The player who always seems to stand out on the Washington Capitals’ blue line is Mike Green. His prolific offensive skills back there make him a player for opposing defenses to watch. His own defensive abilities have often come under fire, however, and sometimes with good reason.
Four years ago, he missed out on making Team Canada’s Olympic roster despite being in the midst of back-to-back 70-plus point seasons. While Canada went on to win gold then, Green is back vying for a spot on the 2014 team and tells Katie Carrera of The Washington Post he’s a well-rounded player now.
“I think I’ve developed a lot as a player. After I wasn’t invited I worked hard to develop my game so that I would be looked at for the next Olympics. That’s where I’m at,” Green said. “I think that I was a little one dimensional before being just an offensive defenseman and I’ve really been concentrating on keeping my plus-minus up and playing strong defense.”
Plus-minus hasn’t really been an issue for Green in the past as his offense would help buoy his defensive miscues. Last season he was a mere minus-3 in plus-minus.
If there’s anything that’s vital for the Caps, however, it’s that Green stays healthy and in the lineup. Say what you will about his defense, but there’s no questioning they’re a better team with him out there. His power play abilities alone make him a vital weapon.
Besides, if the Caps are in need of a shutdown pair of defensemen, they’ve got John Carlson and Karl Alzner to do that work for them. They’ve been pretty good at that the last two seasons.
The Traverse City prospects tournament is nearly upon us and teams are letting us know who they’re sending. The latest to do that are the Minnesota Wild.
Leading the way to Michigan are a pair of first-round picks in defenseman Matthew Dumba (2012) and center Zack Phillips (2011). In all, the Wild will have 10 draft picks in Traverse City to represent them.
Other highlighted players include forwards Brett Bulmer (2010, 2nd round) and Raphael Bussieres (2012, 2nd round) as well as goalie Johan Gustafsson (2010, 6th round).
Dumba and Bulmer have had time at the NHL level in recent seasons while Phillips has hopes of being the next big offensive prospect for the team soon. He played alongside current Wild favorite Charlie Coyle in the QMJHL at Saint John.
The Wild will be joined by the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres, and Detroit Red Wings at the tournament.
We’re still waiting to see what Ducks forward Teemu Selanne will do about playing this year, but one of his teammates thinks he has a bead on what the future Hall of Famer will do.
Defenseman Luca Sbisa tells Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register (paywall) he believes Selanne will be back this year.
“I’ve asked him about five times,” Sbisa said. “You want to play? You got to play. And he’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ We’ll see. But I’m 99 percent sure he’s going to play.
“I think he’s got one more year for sure. But it’s up to him.”
Selanne met with coach Bruce Boudreau yesterday in Anaheim to discuss what his role with the team would be this year. Boudreau seems to be the one guy who will influence Selanne’s decision the most as he’s said he wants to play top-six minutes.
As it is, Corey Perry tells NHL.com they need Selanne back after trading Bobby Ryan to Ottawa this summer.
The NHL schedule makers have a twisted sense of timing or they’re really good at having things fall into place with happenings in the league’s offseason. Case in point: The New Jersey Devils visiting the Vancouver Canucks just four games into the season on October 8.
Newest Devils goalie Cory Schneider tells Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice that was the first game he took note of on the New Jersey schedule.
“I don’t know if the schedule makers are doing me a favor by getting it out of the way early or playing around with me by making me do it so soon,” Schneider said. “I’m sure it will be a big story in Vancouver, but for us it can’t be a distraction. It’s got to be another game.”
Calling it a “big story in Vancouver” is putting it lightly.
With how the Roberto Luongo story has been handled there, seeing the guy who was supposed to be the new No. 1 goalie come back with a different team, it may as well be the Stanley Cup Final. Then again, it’s probably best for both players that they face each other early so the drama doesn’t get out of hand late in the year.
For what it’s worth, they’ll face each other again just 16 days later in Newark.
If there’s anything in Washington that’s been as steady as Alex Ovechkin filling the net, it’s wondering who, exactly, would be their No. 1 goalie.
The list of guys who have been the leading man in goal since 2007 is an exhaustive one: Olaf Kolzig, Jose Theodore, Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, Tomas Vokoun. The newest name to that list is one that should put an end to the stop-gap method that’s plagued the Capitals in recent years.
Braden Holtby took over last season as the team’s starting goalie, beating out Neuvirth for the job. Once he earned Adam Oates’ trust, his play along with Ovechkin’s steady offense led the Caps out of the Eastern Conference cellar and into the playoffs.
While Holtby is headed into his fourth season with the Caps, his résumé thus far reads like that of a guy who isn’t relinquishing his starting job anytime soon.
2010-2011: 10-2-2 .934 SV% 1.79 GAA
2011-2012: 4-2-1 .922 SV% 2.49 GAA
2012-2013: 23-12-1 .920 SV% 2.55 GAA
If you want to poke holes in what Holtby’s done, the easiest way to do that is yell about the small sample size. Fair enough. No one should be crowned after just 57 NHL games. Of course, his record in the AHL with the Hershey Bears was pretty good too.
Washington has the luxury of having many young goalies who all may blossom and become elite starters. Neuvirth has had his moments in the sun and Philipp Grubauer is waiting for his chance to shine in the minors. Neuvirth is the old man of the bunch at 24 years old while Holtby is 23 and Grubauer is 21.
That said, those other two haven’t put up the same kinds of numbers Holtby has at either pro level. His invite to Team Canada’s Olympic camp wasn’t just for laughs. He’s shown he can compete at that level and he may just be there to stay for a while.