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.