Connor Clifton’s Versatility Giving Boston an Edge

(Photo Credit: Courtesy of WBZ | CBS Boston)

By: Jeff Playdon | Follow me @PlaydonJeff

So far in the season, the Bruins have been riddled with injuries. One of those injuries includes defenseman Matt Grzelyck who was injured on January 18th, 2021, against the New York Islanders. Due to Grzelyck being sidelined, defenseman Connor Clifton has had to fill in, and he’s done a phenomenal job. While Clifton’s stats don’t look impressive on paper, it’s the little things he’s been doing, and it’s given the Bruins a boost. 

Clifton’s Impact

Clifton has played in six of the Bruins’ last seven games after getting healthy scratched nightly to begin the season. But he’s heated up just in time for Grzelcyk to get back. Clifton’s best game of the season so far was definitely Friday night when they faced the Philadelphia Flyers. One of the key highlights included a ferocious hit on Flyer Nicolas Aube-Kubel, which left him walloped on the ice. Other highlights of that game for Clifton included a rush, a couple of scoring chances, and even a scrap with Kubel.

Bruce Cassidy on the Bruins Injuries

With two of Boston’s games against Buffalo being canceled Saturday and Monday due to the Buffalo Sabres COVID-outbreak, it gives time for Grzelyck to get healthy and come back to the lineup quicker than expected. Coach Cassidy was interviewed over a Zoom call Saturday morning, and he had this to say about the Clifton/Grzelyck situation: 

“Well, we’ll consider (scratching someone to play Clifton) on a back-to-back — which would’ve been tonight, by the way — if everyone’s healthy, I think Grizz might’ve potentially gone back in, so we would’ve had to have made that decision, but it could come Friday/Saturday in New York (against the) Rangers and Islanders, where we look and say, ‘OK is Cliffy a better option going in fresh as opposed to three games in four days.’ “But until you’re completely healthy on a consistent basis, like earlier in the year, we’ll just play it one game at a time. But you might see that as early as Friday/Saturday, where we say one of these young guys could use a rest. Or maybe it’s someone else you manage.

I think it’s early in the year for that, to be honest with you, to pull out a veteran guy, but certainly, something that who knows down the road, like we’ll get feedback on the wear and tear of Charlie’s heavy minutes or Kevan Miller, his recovery has gone excellent, but does he benefit (from a day off). “All those things will be discussed, and having a guy like Cliffy, that’s played now and gives us a lot of juice, is a great, great, great problem to have. It’s no fun when I have to go tell him he’s not in the lineup, trust me, a guy that works that hard and is a popular guy, but it’s a good problem to have in the end.” 

Bruins Almost Offseason Signings

With Clifton stepping up, it makes you think why Boston didn’t go ahead and pull the trigger on players like Karl Alzner and Sami Vatanen. Alzner, who was a veteran left-shot defenseman for Washington and Montreal, was someone who Boston was eyeing to sign this offseason. With Zdeno Chara leaving Boston in the offseason, Boston looked to sign someone to replace some of the grit and leadership that Chara brought to Boston. The same thing applies to Sami Vatanen, who totaled five goals and 23 assists for the New Jersey Devils last season. Even with Grzelyck coming back in the next coming games, it doesn’t appear that Clifton will be banished to simply serving as a healthy scratch in perpetuity.  

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