Much of the focus in this series has been the play of Chris Pronger,
the mythical veteran on the Flyers that everyone gravitates to in order
to get his take on the team, the series and the games. He plays nearly
30 minutes every game and at times he’s out on the ice for an
extraordinary amount of time. He’s been instrumental in shutting down
Dustin Byfuglien, and the top line of the Chicago Blackhawks been
frankly horrible against the Flyers.
Yet there is one player who deserves much more attention than he’s
receiving, and I’m sure he’d rather it stay that way.
Matt Carle is spending almost as much time on the ice as Pronger, as
the two have developed into one of the most consistent and dominant
defensive pairing in the postseason. There’s no doubt that Carle has
played a major role in his team’s success, and on Friday night was in
the right place at the right time when he found the puck on his stick
down low for a big goal late in the first period.
Coach Peter Laviolette says that Carle is a quiet, unassuming player
who just does his job exactly the way is should be done.
“I’ve said this all year, Matt has to play against the same players
that Chris is playing against, and they’re usually pretty good players,”
said Laviolette yesterday after the team arrived in Chicago.
“For somebody that doesn’t have the same stature and size as Chris on
the ice, he’s a smaller player, he defends very well. He uses his —
he positions himself well in the defensive zone. He never really puts
himself in a bad position. He makes it really good first pass. He gets
himself out of trouble with his skating. They’ve been a really good
pair the entire year.”
What’s more impressive is that Carle is able to be just as effective
as Pronger without resorting to the same methods, the same intimidation
factors that Pronger is infamous for. You never expect Carle to take a
dumb penalty for cross checking or retaliation, and Pronger says that
sometimes Carle is overlooked for just how good he is defensively.
“[Carle is a] very steadying influence on the ice,” said Pronger.
“Makes a great first pass. Reads a play very well. And is a solid
defender. I think a lot of times guys that can make plays and
see the ice as well as he does and jumps in the attack, their defensive
play gets overlooked a lot. He’s obviously playing with me matched up
against the top line. Does a great job.”
Believe it or not but
Pronger is very modest when it comes to his role in shutting down the
Hawks, stating time and again he’s just doing his job. But ask him about
Carle and he’s forthcoming, very willing to heap praise upon his young
Carle has bounced around a bit in the NHL before
landing with the Flyers last season, but it’s a playoff performance like
this one that truly defines a career. Pronger may be getting all the
attention but the ones who really watch the game, the ones that really
matter — they know just how good he’s been.