BOSTON - It took almost two full seasons in his NHL career for it to happen, but Brandon Carlo was finally a healthy scratch in the Bruins' 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
The 21-year-old defenseman had a rough road trip with a minus-5 performance through the first four games of the five-game swing before getting kicked up to the press box for the loss to the Sabres at the KeyBank Center. Perhaps some of the downturns in performance has been about the trade deadline with the second-year defenseman’s name being bandied about in a possible blockbuster deal for Ryan McDonagh. Some of it also is clearly the lulls that can happen in a young player’s game.
His replacement didn’t fare much better. Both Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug struggled, as did most of the team, in the loss, but Bruce Cassidy said he wants to see more consistency of the young, top-four D-man.
The chances of Carlo getting shipped ahead of the Monday 3 p.m. trade deadline aren’t very good with the Bruins likely done dealing from their roster and Cassidy said as much when discussing Carlo's scratch.
“Before speculation starts, we’ve talked about having eight capable guys and playing the best six every night as best as possible,” said Bruce Cassidy, who was also very clear to point out it was about Carlo watching a game from upstairs rather than having anything to do with the Monday afternoon trade deadline. “We feel Adam did his job very well while he was in, and Brandon has had pockets of very good hockey, and some inconsistency, so we were making that switch for [Sunday].
“I think it’s good for a kid sometimes to go upstairs and watch, and that’s our plan. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Interestingly, newly acquired D-man Nick Holden is still waiting to make his debut with the Bruins as there are eight bona-fide candidates for the six nightly spots and anybody scuffling is going to need to pick up their game if they want to play. That goes for Carlo, who had a tough first period on Saturday night in Toronto and never seemed to rebound from that in an area of resiliency he’ll need to keep working on as the games get more important down the stretch.
February is the first month where Carlo has been a minus player this season and the healthy scratch on Sunday might just be a crossroads for a player who needs to play with more confidence, more toughness and a little more swagger if he’s going to be a positive factor for the Black and Gold.