Trial by fire in opener makes Bruins young defensemen stronger

Trial by fire in opener makes Bruins young defensemen stronger

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the young Bruins defensemen who made their debuts on Thursday night in Columbus, but the happy ending more than made up for a few of the rocky moments.

Both 19-year-old Brandon Carlo and 23-year-old Robbie O’Gara got their trial by fire the season opener against the Blue Jackets and survived to tell about it in a 6-3 come-from-behind win at Nationwide Arena. 

There were clear nerves early on in the game when Carlo was on the ice for a couple of goals against in the first two periods, including a Seth Jones score where the 6-foot-5 Carlo fanned on a couple of attempts to clear the puck out of the zone before the damage arrived, but Claude Julien saw a couple of players who got stronger as the game went along.

“They did [get stronger as the game went]. That’s exactly what you want,” said Julien. “You’ve got to understand this is their first regular-season game and they were a little nervous at the beginning. I saw some things that I hadn’t seen in the preseason. But then I saw some things from the second period on that I had seen in the preseason and that was solid plays under pressure, making good decisions and playing with a lot of confidence. If it’s just one period of nervousness then we’re in good shape with those guys.”

Similarly, O’Gara had a shift in the first period where Matt Calvert picked his pocket in the D-zone and that led to a dangerous possession with the big youngster running around a bit in his own zone. Still, O’Gara blocked a shot to help his own cause in that aftermath and settled into a solid tandem with Torey Krug as the night went along.

Carlo admitted the obvious afterward: that it wasn’t perfect. But the nerves were gone midway through the game, and he looked exactly like the player that impressed the Bruins so much in the preseason.

“I was a little bit out of position [on the penalty kill] for sure. I could have been more in the passing lane and I got a little over-exaggerated up top. But overall it was a good learning experience and I’m glad I kind of revived myself after that for the rest of the game,” said Carlo. “I’m just going to keep learning from that and next time that won’t happen.

“Being out there on the ice for the goals for is a lot better than being out there for the goals against. But like I said, I felt like I progressed throughout the game and I just want to keep going from here.”

Clearly, Carlo did. He finished with his first career NHL assist on Brad Marchand’s first goal of the nigh  and had a plus-5 rating and six shot attempts in 17:48 minutes of ice time in a sweet comeback victory for the Black and Gold. 

Morning Skate: Best all-time college hockey lineups

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Best all-time college hockey lineups

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while welcoming in spring with open arms.


*Interesting exercise from ESPN putting together the best all-time lineups for a number of college hockey programs. We know about a lot of the powerhouse programs, but UVM could put together a pretty damn good lineup based on the players that have come out of the Catamounts program, including former and current Bruins Tim Thomas and Kevan Miller.


*Jack Eichel scoffs at the notion that his ankle injury should have caused the Sabres star to shut it down for the rest of the season.


*Nice work by Star Wars Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni to put together a Star Wars jersey again this season for the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins.


*Rob Rossi has got some major issues with ESPN the Magazine omitting Sidney Crosby from their Most Dominant Athletes of the last 20 years list. Yeah, I’d say that doesn’t make any sense. Not that anybody really cares about ESPN the Magazine or anything.


*Strange times with the CWHL as Cassie Campbell Pascal has resigned from her role as a CWHL Governor ahead of the league’s marquee weekend.


*The Golden Knights and Marc-Andre Fleury are both tied together in their rise toward the top of the NHL this season.


*For something completely different: Never before has a mustache been talked about as much as the CGI mustache for Henry Cavill in Justice League, and now it’s gone forever.


Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.

Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.

“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”

Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.

Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.

Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.