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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    Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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    You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

    The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

    (Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

    Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

    The penalty element is interesting, though.

    When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

    The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

    via Natural Stat Trick

    It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

    Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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    It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

    Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

    It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

    Judge for yourself in the highlights:

    The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

    If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

    Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

    (Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

    The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

    It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

    Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

    Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

    The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

    Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

    Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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    Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

    Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

    That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

    Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

    Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

    Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

    Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.