(Photo Credit: Gerry Broome AP Photo)
By: Jamie Gatlin | Follow Me On Twitter: @JamieGatlin1217
On Saturday night it appears the Bruins will see a key piece return to the lineup. After missing nine games due to an upper-body injury, Brandon Carlo is probable to return against Detroit. It is welcoming news for a defensive core that has been besieged by injuries and recently lost Kevan Miller for at least the next five weeks. It will be a huge upgrade as before Carlo’s injury he was arguably having the best season of his career.
In Sixteen games this season Carlo has yet to score a goal and has only two assists. He has never been known for his offense as he has just six career goals. His job first and foremost is to defend which he has excelled at this season. Before his injury, Carlo’s skills as a shutdown defenseman were becoming more evident. After an up an down Sophmore season he has been key for the Bruins this year.
Carlo’s improved play is reflected in his ice time. He is averaging a career-high 20.58 minutes a game after averaging 19. 14 last year. When healthy the former second-round pick has had better puck control and been an effective penalty killer. This is critical as he attempts to grow into the role of a shutdown defensive. With Zdeno Chara injured that is the role, Carlo will be asked to play upon his return. It is a job he seems prepared to handle.
So far this season Carlo’s defense has improved partly due to his physicality. After recording a total of eighty-nine hits last season he already has thirty-five this year. His eleven takeaways are only fifteen less than his career high. In Carlo’s absence, the Bruins have gone 4-2-2 and their defense has been one of the best in the league. It will only improve as this team gets healthier and getting Carlo back is a big step.
Even though Carlo has not been impactful offensively he has improved. His two assists already put him on pace to pass his total of six from last season. He does not have the high-end offensive capability like Torey Krug, but the Bruins have challenged him this season. His offense is not as natural as his defensive game but it is growing. Even a slight increase in production would make him a more dynamic player.
His impact, however, does not always show up on the stat sheet. His awareness has bailed out the Bruins goaltenders multiple times. Swatting the puck out of the crease appears to have become his specialty. Plays like this can shift the momentum of a game. That is what makes Carlo so valuable.
With Carlo’s return, the Bruins will be getting back one of their best defensemen. That, however, does not take away from what his replacements have done. Losing a player of his caliber is never easy especially with injuries seemingly mounting everywhere. This team showed it’s character in the face of adversity and now the toughest part is over.