PHILADELPHIA -- Matt Carle read what Claude Giroux was doing before making his move.
"Claude spun around and I just figured he would be throwing the puck at the net," Carle said, "so I was hoping to get a fortunate bounce -- and sure enough, I did."
Giroux absolutely did spin and fire the puck toward the net. And, Carle, because he read the play and didn't go too high in the zone, was able to get the most fortunate bounce/pass he could have possibly hoped for to score his first goal of the playoffs 14:35 into the first period of Friday night's 5-3 Flyers' win in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Giroux's shot never hit the net, but instead went straight to Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Hawks' defenseman incredibly swept the puck right into the high slot -- right onto Carle's tape for an easy slam-dunk goal that at the time gave Philly a 2-0 lead.
Call it Carle's reward for the minutes he's been logging and the work he's been doing as the other man playing against the Blackhawks' best players.
Everybody wants to talk about Chris Pronger (rightfully so), but Carle is playing almost as much as his defensive partner -- and he had 1 goal and 2 assists along with a plus-4 rating in the Flyers' wins at Wachovia Center. Pronger is a plus-6 along with an assist, which is why he's in the Conn Smythe Trophy discussion.
"He's obviously playing with a lot of confidence and making good, smart decisions on the ice," Pronger said of Carle. "He's playing very well one-on-one against top players. He's got a good first pass and vision that probably sets him apart from a lot of other players."
Pronger said Carle's vision is why he was able to read what Giroux was doing.
"You have to see the play develop and he certainly has great anticipation and vision of what is going to happen," Pronger said.
He'll never get the credit, not with Pronger being a dominant player on the ice and a media darling off it, but Carle deserves at least some praise for helping the towering No. 20 hold Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien in check. One guy, no matter how experienced, tough, tall and talented he might be, can shut down those three on his own.
Carle, though, credits Pronger for his rise.
"I have a little bit more composure out there and I think I play more aggressive defensively (because of Pronger's presence)," Carle said. "Obviously with added experience you're going to have more confidence and feel more comfortable in different situations."
The ice time isn't bothering Carle either. He's only playing roughly two more minutes per game in the playoffs than he did in the regular season (25:39 to 23:23).
The guy is 25, so when he sees his 35-year-old partner smiling and yucking it up with the media after games, there's no way he's going to complain about skating too much.
"It's nice having the days off in between so you don't have to worry about the back to backs and you get plenty of fluids," Carle said. "When it comes game time, you have so much adrenaline going. This is what you live for, to be in these kinds of hockey games."
He's got at least two more of those games to play before calling it a season.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl