BOSTON – It’s not often you hear a player take the blame for a loss squarely on their shoulders, but Saturday night was one of those times for Brandon Carlo.
The 20-year-old defenseman called himself the “Achilles heel” for the Bruins in their 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs at TD Garden that gave Toronto a sweep of their home-and-home series over the last couple of nights. It was perhaps a tad harsh given that hockey is a team game where many factors feed into any failed play, but there’s also no doubting that Carlo had arguably his worst game of the season in the defeat.
There were brutal turnovers, ill-timed penalties and being in the wrong place at the wrong time in front of the Boston net, and it all added up to a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Carlo.
“I was kinda the Achilles heel tonight with my mistakes. If I didn’t make those we probably would be ahead in those areas. It’s unfortunate, but maybe next time we’ll get a good balance and my mistakes will be covered,” said Carlo. “I had a bad night. I don’t know really what to say about that. I just tried to make plays and they didn’t really work out. [They] ended up in the back of the net. Those things can’t really happen all the time.”
It all started with Carlo under pressure breaking the puck out in the first period, and instead he turned it over to Mitch Marner with an errant pass in the middle of the ice. Immediately Marner snapped a shot over Tuukka Rask’s shoulder for Toronto’s first goal of the night, and the beginning of Carlo’s tough night.
Later in the first period Carlo was whistled for a hooking call, and immediately again the Leafs scored with a power play goal from James van Riemsdyk camped in front of the net. In the third period once again Morgan Rielly found Carlo in a tough spot, and fired a point shot just as Carlo was crossing in front of the net. The big Bruins D-man screened Rask on the shot, and then doubled down on the badness by redirecting the puck with his stick up and under the bar for Toronto’s insurance goal.
Carlo finished with a minus-2 rating in 15:27 of ice time, and factored negatively in each of the first three goals allowed for the Bruins. Clearly it won’t be going on the Carlo Highlight Reel for this season, but Bruce Cassidy also indicated that his young player was also probably being a little too hard on himself.
“He’s being a little hard on himself. He had a tough break on the third goal. I mean, he’s got to make a split second decision; they get pucks to the net, he needs to box out and it’s a flash screen, and those things happen. The first one he’s just off. It was the right idea; he just missed,” said Cassidy. “You don’t want to discourage guys from making plays, tape to tape breakouts. Now obviously you’ve got to manage the puck better as a team.
“It’s cost us a few games. So, there’s a fine line there. Brandon will bounce back. He’s a good kid, he cares, and he’ll continue to play hard. He’ll have to play himself out of it. It’s that simple, because he’s a good player for us.”
The bottom line for Carlo is that he’s got three assists and a plus-6 in 15 games this season, and Saturday night was his first minus game during the month of November. He’s been pretty good for most of this season, and he’s done it while branching out away from usual defense partner Zdeno Chara, and instead working mostly with Torey Krug. Now the challenge for Carlo will be to minimize any stretch of bad games or shaken confidence, and continue to show greater consistency to his game in his second full season at the NHL level.
It’s all part of the learning curve for another of the many young players Boston continues to bring along this season, and show patience in even as the expected inconsistency is beginning to cost them in the standings.