By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
A year ago, young defenseman Connor Clifton played in his first season with the Providence Bruins. He came to Providence as a college free agent signing an AHL contract, after not signing with the Arizona Coyotes (the team that drafted him) and electing free agency. The New Jersey native came from Quinnipiac University, where he had a very successful college career, and even served as the Bobcats’ Captain in his senior season. After taking some time to adjust to the AHL game, the young defenseman got better with each game he played through the season. The Boston Bruins were so happy with his progression that they signed him to a two-year ELC after last season.
Coming into this season, the major things that stood out about Clifton’s game were his great skating ability, and his aggressive play both with and without the puck. The former Quinnipiac University Captain came into this season on a mission, playing extremely well for Providence. Even early in the season, it was easy to see that Clifton had the biggest improvement in play from last year to this year. Then in mid-November with a lot of injuries to the Boston defense, Clifton got his first call-up to the big club. In his nine-game stint, he looked good. The young defenseman didn’t register a point, but he played good defense and looked like he belonged in the NHL.
After being sent back down to Providence, he continued to improve his game. Playing great defense while also contributing offensively as well. The injury bug bit the Boston Bruins defense again, and in mid-March, Clifton was called back up to the NHL, and this time it was for good. He would play in 10 games at the end of the regular season and registered his first NHL point, getting an assist in a win against the Florida Panthers. Overall, in 19 games with the Boston, he registered the one point. While in Providence, he netted six goals while dishing out 21 assists for 27 points in 53 games played. That’s a point per game total of .509.
At the end of the season, Clifton was playing so well that the Bruins decided he would be in their line-up when the playoffs started April 11, 2019, against Toronto. The New Jersey native would get dinged up in the game one loss to Toronto, but finally got back into the line-up in time for the game seven victory that sent Toronto home for the summer and Cliffy Hockey was born. The young defenseman has played so well that he’s stayed in the rotation even with big free agent acquisition John Moore, who signed a five-year 13.75 million dollar contract in July being healthy.
With each game Clifton plays, you can see him getting more confident and playing better. Not only defensively, but offensively as well. The Quinnipiac Alum plays big. He’s not afraid to throw his body around, and he plays an aggressive style that is an absolute joy to watch. Not only that, his skating ability is awesome. Clifton’s speed has helped in both ends of the ice these playoffs. His play has really peaked during this recent eight-game playoff winning streak that the Bruins are on. In the eight games, he’s netted his first two career NHL goals, and dished out two assists for four total points. As the stage gets brighter, so does Clifton’s play. His goal in game one of the Stanley Cup Final was huge. The Bruins were down 2-0, and the goal turned the tide of the game.
The Boston Bruins find themselves just three wins away from hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup for the seventh time in franchise history. There are many contributing factors that have led them to this point. The play of Tuukka Rask, the play of Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and the third line, the play of Sean Kuraly and the fourth line, even the team’s defense as a whole. However, even with all of those factors, Connor Clifton’s coming out party which has solidified the defensive third pairing is as big a factor as all of those things. If Boston wants to finish off this season with a championship, then Clifton will need to continue his high level of play, and I expect him to do just that. Feel free to leave me any comments or questions on Twitter, and I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the Stanley Cup Final. Finally, most importantly, GO, B’S, GO!