It’s never been about the statistics or the offensive numbers for a player like Boston Bruins shutdown defenseman Brandon Carlo.
The 24-year-old defenseman has two goals and three points along with a plus-3 in 19:09 of ice time and has maintained his level of play while filtering through varied defense partners like Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton and John Moore among others. It was certainly an adjustment moving on from longtime partner Torey Krug when the offensive D-man signed with the St. Louis Blues in the offseason, and that’s been exacerbated by the B’s injuries on the back end.
Perhaps that perseverance and steady determination was part of the thinking in bestowing Carlo with the “A” on his Bruins sweater for Sunday’s win in Lake Tahoe with normal alternate captain David Krejci injured and out of the lineup. Surely it was a number of things including the steady young leader that Carlo has become in his five seasons with the Bruins, but the 6-foot-5, 212-pounder said it was a massive honor to get a letter on his sweater, even if it was temporary.
“It was amazing. That was probably the biggest honor of my life, to walk in the locker room that day and see an ‘A’ on my sweater,” said Carlo when asked about it a couple of days later. “It means so much to me that this group and the management and everyone can trust me to take on that responsibility.
“It definitely warmed my heart and gave me an extra boost of confidence, knowing that I’m contributing to this team in a leadership aspect. And I want to continue to grow in that regard.”
Certainly, he leads on the penalty kill where he’s stepped into the void left by Zdeno Chara as one of the big PK guns anchoring the unit along with Jeremy Lauzon.
Now he’ll have to shoulder even more of the load with the news that Lauzon will be out at least a month recovering from a fractured left hand suffered in last weekend’s Lake Tahoe win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
But it’s also about being part of that middle group of leadership that Krug so often was over the last handful of years, and stepping up along with guys like Charlie McAvoy, Charlie Coyle and David Pastrnak to be connective tissue between established veterans like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci and younger guys like Jack Studnicka, Jakub Zboril, Lauzon and Trent Frederic.
“There’s a group of them that you can put in that basket. I think Brandon is in there, I think David Pastrnak is in there and I think Charlie Coyle is in there,” Cassidy said of that middle-tier of Bruins leadership. “That’s what you want; you want guys that grow from within [the organization] and develop that leadership skill…We feel Brandon is one of those guys, and he’s earned it.
“He’s young, but he’s been in the league and he conducts himself as a true pro very well. I think the guys all look up to him, so I thought it was a good choice. But, like I said, there are a handful of guys in that mix that are growing and evolving into that type of player with a leadership attribute. We just happened to pick Brandon that day. I thought he earned it and going forward we’ll see how it plays out if the situation dictates again.”
It speaks well to Carlo that he earned the letter honor with things that might not be obvious by glancing at the stats page or at fancy stats associated with his play. But it’s not surprising at all given the quality individual that Carlo is or the glory-less, but very necessary job that he enthusiastically does on a regular basis night in and night out for the Black and Gold.