BOSTON – There was undoubtedly some concern for Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo returning from a concussion given that he’s suffered a handful in his NHL career already at just 25 years old.
The specific details of those head injuries can be scary, as Carlo relayed to the media a couple of days ago mentioning that he literally couldn’t see out of one eye temporarily after absorbing a hit from Arizona forward Liam O’Brien. Ultimately it forced the big D-man to miss four straight games as he worked his way back into the practice group last week after feeling 100 percent within a couple of days post-concussion.
Carlo was emboldened by how quickly he recovered and felt normal again in a couple days after the concussion, and consequently he made a strong return to the Boston Bruins lineup in a defensive slugfest he was needed for in a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
It wasn’t a notable performance in terms of cracking the scoresheet in the low-scoring game, but it was Carlo on the ice in the final minutes of the third period protecting a one-goal lead and noticeably clearing Dallas bodies from the front of his own net.
Carlo finished with a shot on net, a takeaway and two blocked shots in 18:29 of ice time and Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery called him “a beast” postgame for the big, strong way he played to protect the slim lead prior to a clinching Patrice Bergeron empty netter.
“I thought he was a beast tonight. It was great to have him back,” said Montgomery. “We’ve been able to have some success without Carlo, [Matt] Grzelcyk and [Charlie] McAvoy still is going to be out for a while, but it’s nice that we have players coming back because it just makes us better.
“It’s nice to close out a game where Dallas, give them credit, played really hard at the end of a three [games] in four [stretch]. They pushed us and they tested us and I liked the way that we really shut things down in those last four minutes.”
Linus Ullmark was strong too in winning his fifth straight and stopping 30-of-31 shots and lowering his numbers to top-10 in the NHL with a 2.01 goals against average and a .936 save percentage, but he rightly credited a healthier, stronger defense led by guys like Carlo that played robust goal-preventing hockey in front of him.
“I don’t want to talk about me. I want to talk about the team,” said Ullmark. “There’s a whole group of guys out there and it’s not just me. I’ve got guys in front of me blocking shots left and right, boxing guys out and doing the right things over, over and over again. It’s fun to see.”
The Boston Bruins are going to need the 6-foot-5 shutdown defenseman healthy and at his best if they are going to have long term success this season, and Tuesday night was a great sign that Carlo is back and ready to be that guy after a concerning few days.