Despite being a number 6/7 defenceman in the NHL, he possess a unique skill set that was valuable to this team. Carkner brought a certain level of intimidation on the ice and did an admirable job protecting his teammates. He made his presence felt and at times throughout the season was a difference maker.
It may seem like a stretch that a number 6/7 defenceman could be a game changer, but Matt Carkner was exactly that. Remember game 2 in the playoffs versus the Rangers last year?
After sitting game 1, coach Paul MacLean added much needed toughness to his team. Adding Matt Carkner to the lineup was a statement. His sole purpose was to get Brian Boyle to answer the bell.
He took exception to Brian Boyle’s questionable hits and personal targets to Erik Karlsson. And as we all know – he pumped him till he turtled and made him look like coward in front of his whole team. His fight was the turning point of the game and inspired his teammates to go on and win 3-2 OT at the Madison Square Garden. Carkner’s physical play was contagious and it resonated onto other players such as; O’Brien, Smith, Neil, Konopka, Greening, etc. Teams in the playoffs will search for inspiration and sometimes it can come from the least likely culprit. It can come in any shape or form. Matt Carkner did just that. He brought an element of inspiration in a unique way, something that the Sens lineup miss this year.
It should be a real concern for management going into the season having Chris Neil doing all the heavy lifting. Erik Karlsson will be a target all season long. And when the Ottawa Senators season is largely dependent on their reigning Norris Trophy winner, they should have someone who is intimidating presence that can protect him, and hold opponents accountable.