It started with an Alex Ovechkin goal, it ended with a Nick Backstrom empty-netter, but in between– it was a battle. The Caps got up to a dreaded two-goal lead, but were able to hold off the on-slaught by the Penguins, including a controversial no-goal by Patric Hornqvist and a hit-to-the-head by Tom Wilson on Brian Dumoulin; but the luck seemed to give Caps a series tie as they go into Pittsburgh on Tuesday. With that fifth in of the playoffs– time to cover a famous #5 in Caps history.
Everyone knows about Rod Langway. He’s a Capitals’ legend and doesn’t need going over. But what about the guy that came before him?? Not just in position, but in number, as well. That’s where Rick Green comes in. Green was a part of the trade that brought Langway to DC, with Green going to Montreal– but he kept the #5 warm for the eventual Caps great.
Green was another first overall pick for the Capitals in 1976 and saw action immediately in the 1976-77 season, part of the lean years for the still new Capitals. Many wondered why he was picked over some proven scorers in that Draft, but then GM Max McNab thought a defenseman would help lessen the brunt of goals being scored on those lowly Caps. Green didn’t have an immediate impact and got plenty of hazing from the Landover faithful when he was around the ice. His minus-100 rating in his first three seasons probably didn’t help either.
Yet, he was still young and thrown into a role on an expansion club that saw the young rear-guard play close to 40 minutes a night, unheard of at the time for a younger defender. Green started to live up to the expectation, along with Richard Picard, to help the Caps get to their highest win total (27) in 1979-80, while the team only gave up 32 more goals than they put in. Green got the team’s top defenseman award and the team’s Unsung Hero award from the fans who used to boo him.
Green chipped in here and there offensively, as well, putting up 31 goals and 158 points in his 377 games with the Caps. But the move to trade him and Ryan Walter to Montreal in order to get Langway, Craig Laughlin, Brian Engblom, and Doug Jarvis was the first part of the “Save the Caps” movement so the team didn’t relocate. Green’s impact started with becoming better defensively and his impact worked well after he was gone by bringing in the Secretary of Defense that was Langway….and the long-time color commentator in Laughlin.