( (Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton / USA TODAY Sports )

By: Danielle DuBois | Follow me on Twitter @DanielleDuBois

The Boston Bruins defense is remarkable this season. With almost the same roster as last season’s defense, what caused this sudden turnaround? Each week we will be breaking down a player on the Bruins’ defense and discussing why it works. This week we will take a look into Connor Clifton’s statistics. 

The Boston Bruins signed Connor Clifton back in 2018 after his contract with the Arizona Coyotes fell through. He started his Bruins career by playing 54 games for the Providence Bruins. In the 2018-2019 season, Clifton was brought up for 19 games. Within those 19 games, he scored one assist and had 22 shots. With the slow start from Clifton, the Bruins would only bring him up from Providence when needed. However, in the 2021 -2022 season, Clifton played the most games of his career with 60 games. 

This season Clifton has had one of his best seasons yet. He has set a career-high with three goals and nine assists in the 34 games this season. Not to mention defensively, he has had 92 hits, and his +/- is 12. While his penalty minutes sit at 30 this season, he is more disciplined than other young players. 

Clifton is projected to have the most penalty minutes in his career this season; however, he only has one penalty in December. Also, not to mention that ten minutes of the 30 were for fighting. Defensemen getting fighting penalties is expected, and it shows that they can be physical. The Bruins are known for being a physical team, so Clifton stepping up this season and becoming more physical allows him to thrive in this system. 

While other defenders on the Bruins have better offensive statistics, Clifton makes up for it with his ability to carry the puck into the zone and his insane puck control. We have always been able to see glimpses of this talent, but he hadn’t showcased it until Jim Montgomery came in. Players like David Pastrnak and Matt Grzelcyk attempt to carry the puck into the offensive zone quite frequently, but all they end up doing is turning the puck over to the other team. 

Clifton knows that his strengths rely on puck control and being physical, so he showcases it in every game. When Clifton is on the ice, he steps up where he is needed to help carry the puck into the zone so a scoring attempt can be made by one of his teammates.

Every team needs a player like Connor Clifton. A quiet but physical defender that can step up in any way necessary. When Montgomery came into the Bruins system, he excelled at connecting with every player and finding out what their strengths are. We saw Clifton have glimpses of hope throughout last season, but he needed a coach that could utilize his true talent. Montgomery has paired Clifton with Derek Forbort for the majority of the season, and it has allowed both players to excel greatly. Forbort is known for his ability to block shots and his physical plays. 

Between Clifton’s puck handling and Forbort’s ability to block almost any shot, the two complement each other greatly. With Clifton showing us who he is, there is no doubt that he is an up-and-coming star.Ā