Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Carle keeping pace with Lightning

RECOMMENDED READING


SUNRISE — Matt Carle is the first to tell you he did not play well to start the season.

His gaps against opponents were too loose, he said. He wasn't reading plays as well as he should in the offensive zone. He sometimes was caught in limbo between wanting to pinch into the zone and retreating.

Part of it might have been adapting to coach Jon Cooper's system, but it also might have been just one of those rough patches every player endures.

Either way, the Lightning defenseman said, "There was a tough stretch there when I was trying to figure some things out."

And that is what happened.

"Matt Carle has really taken a step," Cooper said. "He has become the defenseman we always thought he could be."

Transitions like that usually need a catalyst.

For Carle, 29, it was knowing he was being counted on to carry an extra load when defenseman Victor Hedman was lost for six games on Dec. 5 because of a lower-body injury.

In the nine games since Hedman was injured, Carle has averaged 23:40 of ice time (1:25 more than his team-most season average of 22:15) and is plus-6 (he was plus-1 his previous 27 games).

In his past five games he has blocked 11 shots, and his team-most 75 blocks entered Sunday tied for 14th among league defensemen.

In Saturday's 3-2 overtime victory over the Hurricanes Carle blocked four shots and had seven shots on goal.

"Now, he's up in the play, he's gapping, he wants the puck, he's defending, he's leading the rush," Cooper said. "He's way more engaged in the game."

With Carle, though, the knock always has been turnovers. That he has 16 this season — 88 league defensemen entered Sunday with more — indicates progress.

As assistant coach Rick Bowness, who handles the defense, said, "Every defenseman turns the puck over, the all-stars, the Hall of Famers, they all make mistakes. That's what the game is. Matty has minimized that for me."

What has been consistent for Carle — paired this season with rookie Radko Gudas — is the ability to eat up minutes; no easy task in Cooper's system, which requires defensemen to join the rush whenever possible.

Add Carle's power play and penalty kill responsibilities and the demands increase.

The key, Carle said, is to "pick your spots where you're going to be a little more aggressive in getting up into the play, or you might make an early change and conserve some energy."

"He doesn't waste a lot of energy running all over the ice," Bowness said. "He knows when the game has to come to him, so his positional play has been very strong because of that."

Whatever the calculation heading into tonight's game with the Panthers at the BB&T Center, it is working.

"When you have the trust of the coach it makes it fun to come to the rink every day and contribute and be on the ice in any situation," Carle said.

Said rookie defenseman Andrej Sustr: "It just seems so easy for him."

Carle can tell you all about when it wasn't.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

TAMPA — A local TV crew set up shop in front of Brayden Point’s locker stall the other day, waiting for the Lightning forward to be ready.Then, captain Steven Stamkos walked into the room for his scrum. It didn’t take long for the TV crew to change c...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

TAMPA — The Lightning welcomed Ben Bishop back with a classy, fitting video tribute in Thursday’s first period. The sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena gave Bishop, the greatest goalie in franchise history, a standing ovation. It was an emotional...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

TAMPA — C Braydon Point’s shorthanded goal tipped the game in the Lightning’s favor and the three penalties it killed during the second period kept it that way in Thursday’s 6-1 victory against the Stars.Dallas entered the game with an NHL-best 30.2 ...
Published: 11/16/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Thursday’s Lightning-Stars game

There was a classy, fitting video tribute to former Lightning goalie Ben Bishop in the first period. Think of all the moments in his five seasons in Tampa Bay. It had to be emotional for Bishop, who calls Tampa his second home. He touched his heart a...
Published: 11/16/17
Lightning vs. Stars vs. Bishop vs. No. 1 PP in NHL

Lightning vs. Stars vs. Bishop vs. No. 1 PP in NHL

Stars’ G Ben Bishop returns to Amalie Arena tonight for the first time since his last home game as a Lightning, which came before last season’s trade deadline.The teacher vs. the pupil (Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy) is one story line.He...
Published: 11/16/17
Lightning hold ‘Military Appreciation Night’ tonight

Lightning hold ‘Military Appreciation Night’ tonight

The Lightning will wear special camouflaged jerseys during pregame warmups tonight as part of "Military Appreciation Night."The jerseys include a nametag of an honorary service man or woman who will be present during the warmups, either on the team b...
Published: 11/16/17
Rick and Tom podcast: The hottest team in sports plays in Tampa Bay

Rick and Tom podcast: The hottest team in sports plays in Tampa Bay

The hottest team in sports plays right here in Tampa Bay, as the Lightning has started the season 14-2-2, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the NHL in wins, Steven Stamkos leads in points and Nikita Kucherov leads in goals scored. In the latest episode...
Published: 11/16/17
Jones: The goalie who could make us forget Ben Bishop

Jones: The goalie who could make us forget Ben Bishop

TAMPA — Former Lightning goalie Ben Bishop showed up at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.So how’s the big guy doing?Don’t know. Don’t care.Sorry, that’s wasn’t meant to be mean. Bishop is a great goalie, a good guy and a class act. He helped turn the Lightn...
Published: 11/15/17
Lightning Strikes podcast: Ben Bishop vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Lightning Strikes podcast: Ben Bishop vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

In our latest Lightning Strikes! podcast, Joe Smith and Tom Jones discuss Ben Bishop’s return to Tampa, his legacy with the Lightning, and the play of new No. 1 goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.They also talk about the emergence of Vladislav Namestnikov, th...
Published: 11/15/17
The net that used to belong to Ben Bishop is in good hands with Andrei Vasilevskiy

The net that used to belong to Ben Bishop is in good hands with Andrei Vasilevskiy

TAMPA — When Andrei Vasilevskiy stares across the Amalie Arena ice tonight, he’ll see his mentor, his "big brother."Vasilevskiy, 23, will also see a little bit of himself. Ben Bishop, 30, the greatest goalie in franchise history, took Vasilevskiy und...
Published: 11/15/17