Remember how everyone was hyping up 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo over the summer? Looks like the hype was justified.
Even though it’s been only three games, Carlo has been very solid on the Bruins’ back end. He has a plus-7 rating right now, which is tops in the NHL at any position and has seen an increase in his time on ice in each game.
He played 17:48 minutes in the season opener last Thursday in Columbus, 22:30 minutes in Toronto on Saturday and 24:27 minutes last night against the Winnipeg Jets. Carlo also added his first-career goal in the 4-1 win, a quick wrist shot in the slot off of what looked like a botched stick-handling move by Brad Marchand.
As Carlo continues to gain experience, his play should improve. So far, he’s been pretty patient in his own zone, protects the puck well and has good vision on the ice. Like any rookie, though, there will likely be some lapses. That’s to be expected even more so with the amount of young players the Bruins are employing on defense.
One thing that Carlo seems to be helping out with is the play of 39-year-old captain Zdeno Chara. Much has been made about Chara’s decline, which I’ve always believed was a bit overblown because of his defense partners the past couple of seasons. Through three games, Chara has looked steadier than he has at points over the last two seasons and is a plus-6 at the moment. He’s still playing a ton of minutes (25:34 last night), but it seems that Carlo has helped steady the top defensive pairing.
I’ll even go further – Carlo is the best partner he’s had since Johnny Boychuk/Dennis Seidenberg in 2013 and 2014. I fully believe this to be true after seeing a washed up Seidenberg try to recreate some of the old 2011 magic with Chara off and on over the past two seasons, as well as watching Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid, both of whom are third-pairing guys. You just can’t not be impressed with what Carlo has been able to do to this point, and this doesn’t look like a fluke.
Carlo likely isn’t going anywhere, which means someone else is going to be traded somewhere down the line. Who it is remains to be seen. But for right now, the Bruins’ defense is certainly better right now than it was at any point over the last two years.