Carlo Aims to Make Impact with Bruins

August 31, 2018

By Steve Conroy

Boston Herald

When it comes to those little nagging injuries that can weigh a player down though the course of the season, Brandon Carlo has been lucky. He played in 82 regular season games in his rookie season and 76 last season.

But when he has gotten hurt, the young Bruin defenseman has shown some terrible timing. In his rookie season, he suffered a concussion in the last game of the regular season when he was hit from behind by Alex Ovechkin and missed the playoffs. And with about a week to go before the end of the regular season last year, he suffered an ugly looking broken ankle when he tried to kick a puck away from danger and wound up toe-picking, crashing down in a heap in the corner. He required surgery and, once again, Carlo missed the playoffs.

“Yeah, I’ve got to work on my soccer skills,” Carlo said with a grin. “Pretty embarrassing.”

But at the Bruins captains’ practice Thursday, the 21-year-old Carlo was zipping around the ice and declared himself a full-go for the start of B’s training on Sept. 10.

“No restrictions,” said Carlo. “I’m expecting to be full-everything, full-contact and all of that. I’m feeling confident about that and real excited.”

Carlo began skating on his own in late June and, after overcoming some initial pain in the ankle, his recovery had been on a straight line.

“It didn’t feel great right away,” said Carlo. “I think it was just breaking down some of that scar tissue and getting pressure on that area that I was uncomfortable with. But now it feels great.”

Before the injury, Carlo experienced an up-and-down sophomore campaign. He left the security blanket of Zdeno Chara and played most of the season with Torey Krug. Carlo had some rough nights, low-lighted by a minus-4 night in Vancouver. He went from 6-10-16 totals his first year to just six assists and no goals last season (though some of that can be attributed to his deference to the more offensive-minded Krug). He endured the first healthy scratch of his career.

But in another cruel twist, Carlo had shown marked improvement and had been playing his best hockey of the season at the time of the injury. He felt the improvement was both physical and mental, consciously playing a “grittier” style of game.

“I think it was just forgetting about the past, forgetting about mistakes,” the Colorado Springs native said. “I feel like everyone in this room is going to make a mistake now and then. But overall, I just started to believe in myself a little more. I think confidence is the biggest thing that I’m coming into camp with this year. I’m going to take it and I’m going to run with it. I worked really hard to get to this point and I’m damn excited about this year.”

When everyone was healthy last year, there were four NHL defensemen on the right side with Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid. As of now, it’s balanced out with four on the left side as John Moore was added to the group of Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk.

There was, and will be, competition for playing time.

“I think that will have a little mental drain on every player. That’s normal to go through. But with the competitive juices that are in all of us, that’s going to push you the next step further. Overall, I think that’s good for the team and the defensive corps,” said Carlo. “I know that I’m a part of that group. I want to come and just have a fire and go for it.”

And this season, Carlo would like to finally taste some playoff hockey.

“From my experience in the NHL so far the last two years I’ve been sitting up in the press box watching with you guys,” said Carlo. “It’s really hard for me. But I just want to put that past behind me and focus on this year and I’m really damn excited about what’s going forward. I’m here and feeling well so I’m just excited about making that opportunity happen again.”