Brandon Carlo set for his long-awaited postseason debut
The potential X-Factor of the third Bruins-Maple Leafs postseason matchup of the decade hasn’t suited up for a playoff game.
A concussion during his rookie season and a gruesome leg injury last year cost Brandon Carlo a chance to lace up the skates in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the 6-foot-5 Colorado Springs defenseman is finally healthy enough to begin prep work for the latest chapter of the Bruins-Maple Leafs rivalry.
Carlo took his usual place alongside Torey Krug on Boston’s second defensive pair during Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. That step, in and of itself, marked Carlo’s first pre-playoff practice with the team in his first three seasons.
“I haven’t gotten a grasp on it yet that I’ll be playing in the playoffs,” Carlo said. “It’s fine right now just being able to skate with the guys like I do during the season. But overall there’s a lot of excitement.”
The tight-checking and physical nature of Stanley Cup Playoff hockey lends itself to very little breathing room. Teams fight for every inch of space with every minute of every game.
The Bruins missed Carlo in that regard during their 2017 elimination at the hands of the Ottawa Senators in the first round. Ditto in 2018 when the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated them in the second round.
But Bruce Cassidy has Carlo at his disposal this time around. And he looks forward to trotting him out on the ice — barring any unforeseen developments between now and the start of the series — when the Bruins and Maple Leafs meet for the 15th postseason meeting of the decade Thursday night.
“It starts with the [penalty kill]. It’s one of his biggest strengths [as a] shutdown defenseman. That’s what we missed last year at times against Toronto as well, but especially against Tampa. They have a deep forward group,” Cassidy said about Carlo’s prior postseason absences. “He’s a big body that can defend well, and skate…Size factor, the ability to play 20-22 minutes — reliable minutes — is probably something we missed that time of year. Especially when games get into overtime, he’s a guy that can handle that workload.”
“I think what he does for this team isn’t talked about very often,” Krug added about his defensive partner. “He’s one of those guys that goes under the radar and just works extremely hard every day. He makes a lot of plays and he’s extremely important to our penalty kill. He’s always blocking shots and doing all the little plays that allow us skill guys to take over with the puck and go to work. He’s a guy that we missed a lot. We’re very lucky to have him this year.”
The Bruins need Carlo’s stay-at-home, physical prowess especially with Kevan Miller missing the start of the series with a lower-body injury. He’ll have a tough matchup indeed going up against Toronto’s potent top-six that includes the likes of Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner to name a few.
But Carlo won’t have to watch from above. He’ll be piling up his ice time to help stop a highly-skilled Leafs bunch. It’s a challenge he’ll look forward to starting Thursday.
“Everybody competes as hard as they possibly can,” Carlo said about his postseason observations. “So, you’ve got to bring that same level of intensity.”