Carle Looking Forward to Classic, Excelling With Added Ice Time
NHL Hot Stove Managing Editor David Strehle was able to catch up with Flyers’ defenseman Matt Carle after Saturday’s game against Boston. In an exclusive interview, Carle talks about the upcoming Winter Classic, and the state of the team’s defense without Chris Pronger.
As camera crews for Home Box Office’s ”24/7″ series have made their way through the Philadelphia Flyers’ locker room for the past month in anticipation of the NHL Winter Classic, there is an expectation of something special. It’s a showcase for not only the League, but also the Flyers, their opponents on January 2nd, the New York Rangers, and the respective players and coaching staffs.
Amid all of the ballyhoo, defenseman Matt Carle tries not to act any differently with all of the extra attention.
“It’s a little different having those guys around as much as they are,” the 27-year-old rear guard said after Saturday’s loss to the Boston Bruins. ”But you just try to go about your business and do things as you would normally. Just act like they’re not there, just kind of a fly on the wall.”
While Carle’s philosophy as HBO is filming seems to be just to blend in, his play in recent weeks has forced everyone to take notice.
This is the second straight year that the team has had to endure a prolonged Chris Pronger absence, and it has perhaps been the most trying on Carle, Pronger’s usual partner.
Carle, a user of the social media platform Twitter, sent out his feelings after it was announced that the Flyers’ captain would miss the rest of the season.
“Tough news about Prongs yesterday…really just hoping the big guy is able to get healthy, not just for hockey, but everyday life
The loss of Pronger for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs, along with the injuries to Erik Gustafsson and Andreas Lilja, has understandably affected the way head coach Peter Laviolette has been utilizing his defensive pairings.
Subtracting the club’s top defender and leader in ice time, alone, will do that. With the three blueliners out of the lineup, Laviolette’s top four defensemen — Carle, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, and Andrej Meszaros — have seen a noticeable increase in their amount of ice time.
Through the first 19 games of the 2011-12 campaign, Carle’s TOI hovered in the range of 20 minutes per game. Included in that time frame were five different contests in which he stayed below the 20-minute mark. Maybe not so coincidentally, the 19th game of the season was in Winnipeg, which just so happened to be Pronger’s last appearance for the year.
Since Pronger’s departure, Carle has been averaging closer to 25 minutes a night, topped off by a season-high 27:44 December 7th in a 5-4 overtime victory in Buffalo.
In the 2010 Classic, Philadelphia traveled to Fenway Park in Boston. Carle played 21:49 and finished the afternoon with a -1 rating, and the Flyers dropped a 2-1 overtime decision. Carle said his team, which was wildly inconsistent during the first Classic experience, will have a better idea of how to handle things this year. And maybe even savor it some more.
Though he tries to act as though nothing is different with the added exposure, Carle does like the idea of the documentary-type format. He believes it’s an important medium for hockey fans to identify with their heroes, and maybe even further appreciate their daily grind.
“I think it’s (“24/7″) something that needs to be done every year, whether there’s a Winter Classic or not,” Carle said. “It’s a great opportunity for fans to get an inside look at what our daily lives are like, trying to get to know some personalities and players a little bit more.”