Though Matt Greene had appeared in four April games prior to an undisclosed injury unrelated to the back injury and subsequent surgery that kept him shelved for the nearly three months prior, he was yet to distinguish himself defensively at the level he had maintained for his previous four seasons as a Los Angeles King.
After getting his footing and showing improvement through Game 4 of the San Jose series – his first game after 26 days of practice and rehabilitation – Greene broke through with a rugged Game 5 performance in which he continued to clear traffic in front of Jonathan Quick and gave the Sharks second thoughts about venturing near areas of the ice in the Kings’ zone where goals are scored. He received 2:42 of shorthanded ice time alongside Rob Scuderi, forming an effective tandem that fueled a perfect 3-for-3 penalty killing performance.
Overall, Greene took 26 shifts in 13:17 of ice time for an average of just under 31 seconds per shift.
Players often speak about his contributions extending off the ice, down the tunnel and into the locker room, and judging from their quotes during Friday’s media availability, they’re glad to have the defenseman back in the fold.
Trevor Lewis, on the team’s reaction to Matt Greene’s effective return:
“It’s awesome. I think it provides a lot of energy to see him out there, and being a physical presence and coming down and making strong plays, it’s great to see. We missed him a lot this year. He was really good early last night.”
Lewis, on Greene’s value to the team on and off the ice:
“In the locker room, it starts in there with him. He’s a very vocal guy. He’s a leader, a real leader. He makes sure everyone’s going, and he’ll talk to everyone. What you saw last night, a couple big hits that really picked up our bench and got our energy going. We were really happy to have him back.”
Mike Richards, on the team’s strong start:
“The start of the game was a big focus for us. I think Greenie set the tempo with that, and I think we just followed in his footsteps.”
Richards, on Greene’s Game 5 performance:
“He stepped up. When he comes back, I think the things that you don’t see – the leadership in the dressing room, that powerful voice, I think – all year we missed him. On the ice, too, just how physical he plays and how hard he is to play against. Even before we got Regehr, too, I think that’s kind of what we were lacking on the back end, and we have some skilled guys, guys that move the puck well, but I don’t think you can replace somebody who plays that physical, and how hard both of those guys are to play against, and Matt coming back is a big boost for us. I think you can just see how different of a team we are with him in the lineup, just setting the tone physically.”
Rob Scuderi, on the team’s penalty kill:
“It’s been great having Greenie back. He brings a lot of experience, and certainly with last year and the way he’s made his career in the past, penalty killing’s a big part of it, so it’s nice to have him back. I think we’ve always been pretty good at home. I think we’re looking to step it up on the road a little bit. I think we’ve sat back and kind of let them dictate the pace. We realize we have one less player, but there’s still things you can do to push them in a certain direction and make them take a bad shot, and I don’t think we’ve been doing a good enough job of that on the road.”
Scuderi, on Greene being a “glue guy,” and whether something was missed with him out:
“Of course. He’s a big voice in the locker room, and when he was missing this year, you could really feel it in the atmosphere of the dressing room. It’s not something that is necessarily needed to play well, but it lightens the atmosphere and it keeps things loose, which is a big part of a season and the playoffs. It can’t be serious all the time. We certainly missed him in that way, and certainly what he brings to us on the ice, we’ve missed his experience and leadership.”
Scuderi, on whether Greene is a “funny guy,” and lightens up the room:
“I don’t think he’s particularly, funny, no. [Reporter: Are you funny?] I’m hilarious.”
Scuderi, on whether Greene said anything before Game 5:
“Just his usual thing. Like I said, it’s nice to have him around. He’s a big presence in our locker room, and sometimes I know he may not get a lot of press, might not get a lot of points. Statistics aren’t going to be his thing – or my thing really – but ‘it’s a presence’ is the best way I can describe it.”