Brandon Carlo stepping up as Bruins D battles injuries
Remember this offseason when the Boston Bruins had more defensemen than they knew what to do with?
Prior to the Adam McQuaid trade to the New York Rangers, Boston had eight “NHL ready” defenders plus a stable of talented young prospects in the minor leagues. Through the first ten games of the season, however, even that appears to not be enough. Injuries have decimated Boston’s defensive unit and have already resulted in not one but two call-ups from Providence.
Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller and Urho Vaakanainen have sustained significant injuries that have sidelined them and left the Bruins coaching staff with a dilemma regarding their defensive pairings.
Thursday night against Philadelphia, Boston trotted out another mix-and-match trio of defensive duos that consisted of Zdeno Chara manning the first unit with Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk playing alongside John Moore, and a pair of new faces on the third line in Steven Kampfer — acquired in the McQuaid trade — and Jeremy Lauzon, who made his NHL debut against the Flyers.
Despite the injuries the Bruins, now sit at 6-2-2. Both Carlo and Kampfer have put in significant performances to help the team weather the storm over the last few games.
Carlo’s outings, in particular, are something to marvel over. The third-year defenseman is making the most of his opportunity playing with Chara in the last three games.
Among leading the defense in playing time the past three games and making two last-ditch saves to bail out Tuukka Rask against Ottawa, Carlo has been a strong and consistent presence for Boston’s back line during a time when interchanging parts has become the norm this season; and the Bruins’ coaching staff has certainly taken notice.
“Well, we need it. Again, step up, right. He’s probably looking at Charlie [McAvoy] like hey I want those minutes as well. And why not? He’s a young guy. He’s actually played more games than Charlie,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said following the Bruins’ 3-0 win over the Flyers Thursday night. “It’s good. Like I said, internal competition where guys are pushing each other for those minutes only makes you better.
Carlo played 76 games last season for the Black and Gold before fracturing his ankle and missing the last five games of the regular season and the entire postseason. With most of his starts coming alongside the ever-agile and attacking-minded Krug, Carlo played a more conservative role and hadn’t developed much offensively, tallying only 22 points (6 goals, 16 assists) in 158 games during his first two seasons with Boston.
The Colorado Springs native has reinvented and adjusted his game in Krug’s absence. His two assists and 13 shots on net are a welcomed and encouraging sign for Cassidy and company.
“I think his last few have been really good. He seems to be more comfortable back with Zee,” Cassidy added. “Skating more, getting up the ice and getting involved in the offense. Maybe there’s just a comfort level with Zee that has got him going or he recognizes that Charlie [McAvoy] is out, Kevan [Miller] is out and he’s the number one guy on the right side and has to bring more.”
The Bruins will need Carlo to continue his recent success Saturday night, as they host a surprisingly good Montreal Canadians squad that sits two points behind them.