BOSTON – On a night when many of Boston’s young players stepped up nicely, perhaps none did more so than 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo. The youngster was in a top pair role with John-Michael Liles against a decent Columbus Blue Jackets lineup that included Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Sonny Milano, and had almost no miscues in his 20:16 of ice time.
Better than that, Carlo notched an assist on the game-tying score in the third period when his right point shot made it through traffic for Danton Heinen to redirect it past Curtis McElhinney from the slot. That left Carlo with an assist, a plus-1 rating and three shots on net in 20:16 of ice time to go along with some heavy battling around the net whenever Blue Jackets players tried to get too close.
“Arguably our best D, if not our best D. [He showed] real good decision-making, and his gaps are good. I can really only think of one time in the third period he kind of threw a puck away in the middle of a change, and ended up on his wrong side,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “It wasn’t a bad turnover, but it was just one that he could have made a little bit of a better decision.
“He didn’t handle the puck much in the game, that’s pretty good. He jumped up the ice, got his shot through when it was there, matched up well with whoever he was put out there [against], pushed back in front of our net. [There were] a lot of good things.”
It’s a big training camp for Carlo, who is more than likely earmarked for Providence unless he can utilize a stellar training camp performance to push over one of the seven veteran Bruins D-men with NHL contracts. That means potentially displacing Joe Morrow as the seventh defensemen on the roster, or forcing the Bruins to possibly deal Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller if the Bruins feel he is ready for the day-to-day NHL grind.
The preseason opener was a good start that the 2015 second round pick was excited about, but things will certainly get more challenging for Carlo as the Bruins get deeper into this training camp.
“I just want to keep the same mentality, same energy. Show a little bit more physicality. I felt like I did that, but definitely could close a little quicker in a few instances overall. I just want to keep building on every game,” said Carlo. “There are some very strong guys on the puck in this league and throughout this game they had those guys out there definitely. Overall, you just have to compete just as hard as them.
“You’re dealing with NHL guys out there. [The Blue Jackets] had some pretty good guys in their lineup tonight and everyone is competing for jobs on both sides…so the speed was phenomenal. I loved it.”
The Bruins loved what they saw of Carlo in a pretty big opportunity right out of the gate this preseason, and now the teenager has set the bar if he wants to keep pushing with a hockey club that needs to upgrade their defense with strong, young players.
GOLD STAR: Danton Heinen got off to a slow start in his first NHL preseason game, but was operating at full efficiency when he redirected a Brandon Carlo point shot early in the third period for the game-tying goal that eventually pushed the game into the shootout. Heinen finished second on the B’s with 22:10 of ice time, had four shot attempts and blocked a shot along with the goal, and had another power play chance robbed on the doorstep with a sweeping glove save from Curtis McElhinny. It’s clear from the large amount of ice time that the Bruins want to get a good look at Heinen, and that he’s got a solid chance at an NHL job based on his added development in a big time Denver college program for the last couple of seasons.
BLACK EYE: Peter Mueller wasn’t bad, but zero shots on net along with a penalty in 13:49 of ice time isn’t the kind of performance that’s going to force you to notice him. The Bruins coaching staff then put him out as the final shooter in the shootout with another chance to make a play, and the former Coyotes star forward couldn’t do anything with it before the Columbus game-winner. He clearly has skill, good size and looks like he can make things happen with the puck on his stick, but Mueller needs to make more plays leading to tangible results if he wants to earn a roster spot with so many talented young wingers around him. Both Heinen and Jake DeBrusk cracked the score sheet tonight, and Mueller did not.
HONORABLE MENTION: Give Jimmy Hayes credit, he showed up and played well in what he hopes is going to be a giant rebound season with the Bruins. He scored the game’s first goal on a great give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk, and he was active and strong paying the price in front of the net while engaged in battles that left him with a giant fat lip after the game was over. It was from a Dalton Prout shot at the end of the second period, and it was Hayes paying the price in a game that really doesn’t matter to a veteran player like him. That’s a good sign if he’s willing to keep doing it, as was his decision to stick up for his smaller teammates when big Blue Jackets D-man Oleg Yevenko started pushing people around in the second period. Hayes finished with the goal, four shots on net and put in an honest night’s work for a team that needs it from him on a nightly basis.
TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it was a 5-on-3 at the end of the second period that didn’t get them a goal, but pulled the momentum of the game in their direction while getting Danton Heinen and Seth Griffith into the flow of things. Both players were robbed on the doorstep by diving saves from Curtis McElhinney, but bolstered their determination to make something happen in the third period down a goal. Only a few minutes of ice time later, Heinen was redirecting a Brandon Carlo shot past the Columbus goaltender for the game-tying goal and the B’s were on equal footing with the Blue Jackets. The power play was 0-for-5 on the night, but most of their PP possessions were actually decent considering how little they’ve practiced it this early in camp.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 – the number of shot attempts for Jakub Zboril, who was more good than bad for the Bruins in the first preseason game for the Black and Gold. He set up the first initial transition pass that led to Jimmy Hayes’ goal, and was active while aggressively playing the position and showing off his skills that were very clearly worthy of a first round pick.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “There were a lot of young players in the lineup. I won’t go through all of them, but I thought quite a few of them acquitted themselves quite well. They were given opportunities to do that and some of them certainly took advantage of that.” – Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy after the 3-2 shootout loss.