Mike Green on watching the Olympics from home: 'My time will come'
Capitals defenseman Mike Green always imagined watching Wednesday's epic Canada-Russia Olympic hockey game from ice level, a red and white jersey on, and his name stitched to the back. But because he was one of the odd men out when the roster for the Canadian Olympic team was announced last month, Green took in his home country's 7-3 triumph over Russia on Wednesday in front of a fireplace while sitting in a La-Z-Boy at the home of goalie Jose Theodore.
Green said he gets enough hockey at work, so he's usually not big into watching it when he gets away from the rink. But Wednesday, with the eight best teams in the world facing off in the Olympic tournament's quarterfinals, there was no alternative to sitting in front of the television for the day.
He watched with mixed emotions, though. With his Olympic dreams having to wait until at least 2014 and the fact that five of his teammates were suiting up for their respective countries Wednesday, Green said he was a little envious.
"I obviously idolize those guys that are out there, wish I was there, but more importantly I just hope Canada wins," he said. "My time will come."
"He's handled it privately but he's been so professional out here," said Coach Bruce Boudreau about Green's reaction to missing the cut for Team Canada. "Mike wants to win a Stanley Cup. ... Paul Coffey never got the recognition until he was in the Hall of Fame of how great he was. Mike's similar, except I think he's better defensively."
Yesterday, though, Green was like most of the Capitals, transforming from professional hockey players to regular fans during the eventful quarterfinal round of the Olympic hockey tournament that saw all five Capitals eliminated from Olympic play. While Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Semyon Varlamov, and the Russians getting trounced by Canada was the big story, Tomas Fleischmann and the Czech Republic were upset, 2-0, by Finland, and Nicklas Backstrom and the defending champion Swedes fell to Slovakia, 4-3.
Forward Jason Chimera watched it all from his couch, and while he came away surprised that goaltenders Jaroslav Halak of Slovakia and Finland's Miika Kiprusoff were able to pull off upsets, his lasting impression was from the Canada-Russia matchup.
"There was some playmaking that I haven't seen before, so it was pretty fun to watch," said Chimera. "Being a Canadian, I was pretty proud to watch those guys do so well. But if you look at the other side, it sucks for your teammates to lose. ... Sometimes a goalie in those tournaments can steal the show."
Boudreau has not spoken to any of his players in Vancouver, but did send them all a text message yesterday. He expects them to be back at practice Sunday.
The looming question, though, is whether coming home earlier than expected will help or hurt the Capitals. While their five players return healthy, they also come back with a huge disappointment hanging over their shoulders.
Most at practice wanted to know how it would specifically affect captain Alex Ovechkin.
"There's nobody in sport that has as much pride as Alex does and as much love his country," Boudreau said. "It's a pretty big torch to bear when the whole country is looking at him as the leader and they didn't, as a team, come through. And I'm sure Alex feels the brunt of it, whether it's warranted or not."
"I know how passionate he is about Russia because we always get into it about Canada and Russia," forward Brooks Laich said. "It dates back to World Juniors playing against him, so he's very passionate about playing for his country. Obviously you've seen his comments about playing in the Sochi Olympics even when it hasn't been decided if NHL players are gonna play or not. Hopefully he comes back motivated. I would have liked to have seen him do well, still happy that he was on the Olympic team -- it's a great experience for him. But we'll be glad to get him back healthy and rested."
As for the others, "It's one of those speculations: Will it deflate them, will it inspire them, and I don't know the answer," Boudreau said. "Alex [Ovechkin] ... and Nicky, in a quiet, driven way, are more of an 'Okay, now I'm mad,' type thing: 'I want that glory.' Semin's harder to read and [Fleischmann's] harder to read. [Fleischmann] is very passionate but very quiet. But I know from times I've been with Tomas, that he would have been a very emotional guy last night, I think. But I think he'll be fine, though."
Notes from Practice
*Boudreau put the 17 players in attendance through a tough skate, doing more sprints at the end of practice than I've seen since training camp. Goalie Michal Neuvirth took part but was not on the ice for the end of practice. Boudreau expects him to skate fully tomorrow. Neuvirth has been nursing an unspecified "minor" injury. Boudreau also said goalie Semyon Varlamov might be back at practice as early as tomorrow, sooner than the rest of the team's Olympians. Chimera made it through all of practice today, but said he "wasn't going full out."
*Boudreau also answered a question from Comcast's Corey Masisak about Green's weight issues from last year's playoffs. Neither Green nor Boudreau have spoken much on the record about what caused the star defenseman's somewhat mysterious dropoff during last year's playoffs, but the coach had some interesting things to say about Green learning from his mistakes.
"We've checked him as we've checked everybody, and his weight is perfect," Boudreau said. "One great thing when you're young and if you're smart [is that] you learn from your mistakes, and Mike has been like that all along. He started out the same way as he started out in Hershey, as a young guy that really could skate but wasn't a great power play guy, wasn't great in a lot of situations. But he's learned and he's gotten better and now he's as good as there is.
"I think it's the same way off the ice, it's the same way when you don't have a lot of money and you make a lot of money," he continued. "You live in that home and then you're living on your own, you're gonna make mistakes, but the smart ones learn from those mistakes and Mike's a smart one."
*Boudreau was just dishing out the one-liners today. Here's what he had to say about his own viewing experience when Ovechkin left the ice after getting struck in the hand by a puck in the third period: "It stopped, it didn't skip a beat," Boudreau said of his heart. "I called my wife, 'Get in here, Ovie's hurt.' Then when he moved his hand like this [flexes fist] on the bench, it was 'OK, everything's OK.'"
He then went on to defend Alex Semin's cotroversial hit on defenseman Dan Boyle late in the third period of that Canada-Russia game. Boyle responded by slew-footing Semin.
"It was a good check and if this were the NHL he wouldn't have gotten a penalty and Boyle would have gotten a three-game suspension," said Boudreau. "But it was on a Cap guy, so maybe nothing will happen."
*One person who wasn't watching Olympic hockey yesterday was defenseman Tom Poti. When I walked by his stall, Poti and neighbor Brian Pothier were discussing the controversial disqualification of a South Korean short-track speedskater that allowed the Americans to win bronze in the 3,000-meter relay.
"We see enough hockey," Poti said, adding that curling is his favorite Olympic sport to watch because of the strategy involved.
"The Olympics are my favorite; I love it, not necessarily the hockey, though," said Pothier. "I like the hockey part of it, but it's all the other stuff that I don't get to normally see that I enjoy watching more."
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