(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
What a difference a couple of days of practice can make in the preseason. Tuesday’s game was a bit chaotic as players struggled to understand where each other was. Watching that game from above was like watching random fast skaters. However, Thursday’s game had the speed that the Boston Bruins want to bring this season, but the passes were more solid and there seemed to be much more control among the line mates that were out at any given moment. For some of the Bruins, this was a second game, and in the case of the line consisting of Ryan Spooner, Brett Connolly and Jimmy Hayes, this was their second game as a line.
Unfortunately for the team, they saw captain Zdeno Chara go down and he would not return to the game. On Friday, during his media availability, head coach Claude Julien informed those assembled that Chara had been evaluated and was listed as day-to-day. This was much better news than the timelines for both Dnneis Seidenberg whose offseason injury requires surgery and Seth Griffith who is sidelined for an expected four weeks with a sprained MCL from an on-ice incident that took place when the Bruins played the New Jersey Devils on the 18th.
Perhaps the best event to come out of Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers was rookie and 18-year-old Brandon Carlo’s first NHL goal. Even though it is preseason, he was still quite happy about it and was excited to be playing in the game. But then why wouldn’t he be considering he was paired with Chara.
The lanky 6’5” defenseman shows a maturity belying his youth, which could be the result of his determination to excel. His eyes and ears are open and he is taking in everything he can from coaches and veterans alike.
“[Chara] helps with everything. Every single thing when I am on the ice with him. He just teaches me little things here and there,” Carlo spoke in admiration. “There’s so much knowledge within that guy that he’s shared with me, but mainly just having a good stick, using our bodies, so he’s been very helpful.”
And obviously Carlo took it all to heart because on Friday afternoon the Bruins announced that they had signed the Colorado Springs native to an entry-level contract. Could he be this year’s David Pastrnak for the Boston Bruins? Hard to say with camp still underway and Carlo having had only two preseason games under his belt. Traditionally defensemen take longer to develop than forwards, but Carlo is off to a good start and perhaps his international play the past two seasons coupled with serving as Alternate Captain for the Tri-City Americans this last year has given him a better understanding of what it means to step up.
Coach Julien commented to media on Saturday, before the team headed to Detroit, as to the potential that Carlo has. And Carlo was among those who traveled to to play the Red Wings, marking his third preseason game.
It was also clear in talking with Spooner after Thursday’s game that communication both on and off the ice continues to improve and was in part responsible for his goal that tied the game and ultimately forced it to go to overtime and then a shootout.
“I think there was a rebound and it went to [Patrice Bergeron] and we actually talked about that if he got the puck in the middle he was just going to throw the puck over there and it was a great pass,” Spooner described his goal postgame. “I was going to one-timer, but I looked up [and] there was a bunch of bodies in front of the net so I was just trying to get the puck on net. I actually tried to shoot for a rebound and it went in the net so I’m not going to complain.”
And while the goal may have been a fluke, his being in the right place at the right time to receive the pass from Bergeron was not. It is this communication and understanding where players will be that becomes essential when the regular season gets underway.
The Providence Bruins training camp begins Sunday, September 27, so it would not be surprising to see some cuts made to the Bruins still large training camp roster, likely sometime during the evening as the team returns from another overtime win in Detroit. However, the injuries to Chara, Seidenberg and Griffith are likely to dictate a more judicious pruning of the roster than might have originally been anticipated.