2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Don't forget about Matt Carle

Carle.jpgMuch 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
linemate.

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.

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    Henrik Lundqvist, J.T. Miller lift Rangers over Red Wings

    DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 22:  Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings tries to knock down the puck between Henrik Lundqvist #30 and Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers during the second period at Joe Louis Arena on January 22, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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    This was not the type of game we have been seeing from the New York Rangers in recent weeks.

    Entering Sunday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers had been on a 12-game run where they scored 50 goals (4.1 per game) and also allowed 50 goals. Their balanced scoring depth, combined with a shaky defense and slumping Henrik Lundqvist had produced some high-scoring, 1980s style hockey where any team seemed capable of scoring six or seven goals on any given night.

    On Sunday, they played a complete shutdown game in a 1-0 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings that featured only 40 shots on goal between the two teams, few scoring chances, and only a single goal. That goal did not get scored until 1:56 into the 3-on-3 overtime period when the Rangers capitalized on a two-on-none rush between Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller.

    As Zuccarello carried the puck into the zone alone, he froze Red Wings goalie Jared Coreau and set up Miller with a perfect pass that allowed him to easily deposit the puck in the net for his 16th goal of the season.

    Rangers coach Alain Vigneault blamed the quality of the game on “horrendous” ice at Joe Louis Arena. Whatever the reason, it was a big performance for Henrik Lundqvist in net as he stopped all 21 shots he faced to record his second shutout of the season and his first since November 1.

    For the Rangers, the two points brings them up to 61 points on the season and gives them an 11-point cushion in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

    The good news for the Red Wings is they at least gained a point in the standings for the fifth consecutive game, a stretch that has seen them early eight out of a possible 10 points. The bad news is they left a second one on the table in a game that was there for the taking, in a game where they also lost their leading scorer, Thomas Vanek, to another injury.

    Vanek exited the game after the first period with an undisclosed injury and did not return after playing just six minutes.

    Goalie nods: Corey Crawford gets a chance to snap out of slump for Blackhawks

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Goalie Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks on against the Washington Capitals during the second period at Verizon Center on January 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    With starting goaltender Corey Crawford stuck in his worst slump of the season, and Scott Darling coming off of a 30-save shutout on Friday night, it seemed possible that the Chicago Blackhawks would stick with the same goalie arrangement on Sunday evening against the Vancouver Canucks.

    If nothing else Darling has at least made an argument that he probably deserves a little more playing time than he is getting, and that is still true today.

    He just will not get that opportunity against the Canucks.

    Coach Joel Quenneville is going back to his starter, Crawford, for Sunday’s game.

    After a great start to the season, Crawford has struggled mightily since returning to the lineup following an appendectomy in December and enters Sunday’s game with only a .902 save percentage in his past 10 appearances. He has allowed at least three goals in seven of those games. Before this most recent he was sitting at .927 on the season and looked like one of the top contenders for the Vezina Trophy.

    The Blackhawks are not used to seeing Crawford struggle like this, especially in recent years as he has become one of the league’s top goaltenders, finishing with a save percentage of .924 or better in three of the past four full seasons. He is too good to continue playing the way he has recently. Perhaps Sunday is the day he starts to get back on track against a team that he has a pretty strong track record against.

    The Canucks, entering the game one game out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, have yet to announce their starter.

    Elsewhere…

    — Jared Coureau and Henrik Lundqvist went for the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers in their afternoon tilt on NBC, while Matt Murray and Tuukka Rask faced off in Pittsburgh for the Penguins and Boston Bruins.

    — After starting 12 consecutive games Mike Condon goes again for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are expected to go with Joonas Korpisalo.

    Thomas Greiss returns to the net for the New York Islanders on Sunday after getting Saturday night off and looks for his third consecutive shutout. He has stopped all 55 shots he has faced in his past two games against the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars. The Philadelphia Flyers will go with Steve Mason after Michal Neuvirth took the loss against New Jersey on Saturday.

    Darcy Kuemper is expected to get the start for the Minnesota Wild when they take on the Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne goes for the Predators.

    Red Wings lose Thomas Vanek against Rangers

    TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13:  Thomas Vanek #62 of the Detroit Red Wings gets ready for a face-off against Tampa Bay Lightning during a game at the Amalie Arena on October 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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    This is not the news the Detroit Red Wings needed on Sunday afternoon.

    Forward Thomas Vanek left their game against the New York Rangers following the first period for undisclosed reasons. The team announced that he will not return to the game.

    Vanek has been a steal for the Red Wings this season after signing him to a one-year, $2.6 million contract in free agency. When healthy he has been arguably their best, most impactful forward this season and entered play on Sunday tied for the team lead in goals (12) and total points (31) even though he had already missed nine games this season.

    He played 6:58 in the first period before exiting the game after being shaken up near the Rangers’ net.

    He already missed time this season due to a hip injury.

    Given his success this season with the team, as well as the Red Wings’ current spot in the Eastern Conference standings that has them several points out of a playoff spot, he has been a popular name mentioned in trade speculation in advance of the trade deadline, something that he seems well aware of.

    WATCH LIVE: New York Rangers at Detroit Red Wings

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings looks to block a shot by Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers during the third period at Madison Square Garden on October 19, 2016 in New York City. The Red Wings defeated the Rangers 2-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The Detroit Red Wings are trying to play their way back into playoff contention and have gained points in four consecutive games, including wins in each of their past three home games.

    On Sunday they trying to extend that home winning streak against a New York Rangers team that is one of the highest scoring teams in the league, but has had a heck of a time stopping teams in recent weeks giving up 50 goals in their past 12 games.

    All of the action starts on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET and you can watch all of it there, or online via our live stream.

    It is also a Star Sunday that will focus on Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin and Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

    Click here for the live stream

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