Bruins

Carlo "ready" and "prepared" to step into top pairing in McAvoy's absence

Carlo "ready" and "prepared" to step into top pairing in McAvoy's absence

BOSTON – While it’s unclear how long rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy is going to be out of the Bruins lineup, the backup plan without McAvoy is one that’s been in Boston’s holster all season.

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The Bruins will push 21-year-old Brandon Carlo back up to a top shutdown pairing with 40-year-old Zdeno Chara as they functioned very well for all of last year, and perhaps get a little more out of Carlo than they have for much of this season. 

“We could go in different directions, but Carlo is an easy one to slot back in with [Chara],” said Bruce Cassidy, of the plan without McAvoy after the Bruins went 3-1 without him earlier this season amidst his games missed following the heart procedure. “They’ve played together. [The rest of the pairings] is something we’ll sort through. We had all seven of them working out there [at practice].

“It’s a credit to the guys to be able to ‘man up’ and get it done without key guys, and knowing they can do it. It’s a sign of a good team as well. Obviously every team relies on their best players to be their best players and for the supporting players to follow, but it’s nice when a guy can step up when given the opportunity.” 

It’s been a relatively modest, up-and-down season from the 21-year-old D-man with six assists and a plus-10 rating in 62 games where he’s been largely a defense-first presence playing with the aggressive, playmaking Torey Krug. Within his sophomore NHL season, Carlo has struggled as of late with a point and a minus-7 over his last eight games as he was working through the NHL trade deadline and a glut of goals against where he found himself on the ice.

A new, but familiar assignment for Carlo with the Bruins captain might be exactly the kind of thing to really bring out the best in the 6-foot-5 D-man, and it was pretty clear he was excited about the possibilities in the wake of McAvoy missing some time. 

“I think it’s part of being in the league, and of being ready and being prepared. It’s part of being a pro, I guess you could say, that you’ve got to step up to the challenge when it comes. You look forward to it. I like to challenge myself each and every day,” said Carlo, who has averaged 19:10 of ice time this season. “Even during my ups and downs, I appreciate the downs because I think it makes me a better player. So during this stretch I’ll just go out, work hard and talk to Zee as much as I can on the ice so he doesn’t yell at me on the bench.”

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Carlo and Chara obviously built up a pretty strong chemistry as a couple of tall, rangy defensemen capable of really clamping down in the D-zone, and they’ve remained partners on the penalty kill for much of this season as well. In a funny way this might be a development that really works out for the Bruins if they get McAvoy back well ahead of the playoffs, and also inject more confidence and a little hard-nosed swagger into Carlo’s game as well with his very first playoff experience coming up as well.

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Joakim Nordstrom

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Joakim Nordstrom

It’s still a little unclear exactly what role Joakim Nordstrom is going to play with the Bruins after signing a free agent contract with the B’s on July 1, but the 26-year-old Swedish winger will play somewhere in the bottom-6 for the Black and Gold this upcoming season. He’s not a high profile offensive player or somebody that’s going to blow anybody away with his hockey skills, but Nordstrom will bring plenty to the table in terms of intangibles and things that are needed to win hockey games. The best case scenario is that Nordstrom turns into another Riley Nash, a largely unheralded free agent signing that turned into a pretty good performer for the Black and Gold.

What Happened Last Year: The 26-year-old Nordstrom had just two goals and seven points in 75 games for the Hurricanes last season, but was a staple as a bottom-six forward that killed penalties and played a checking role. Nordstrom was a minus player on a non-playoff team and really had minimal offensive production, so he wasn’t exactly headed into free agency on a high note. But as mentioned above, nobody was signing the Swedish forward to a contract thinking he’s going to turn into a top-6 sniper in Boston or anywhere else. Instead the Bruins needed some penalty killing help with guys like Riley Nash and Tim Schaller moving on, and Nordstrom certainly did that kind of thing for the Canes last season.

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Questions To Be Answered This Season: The one question about Nordstrom is just how good he can be over the next couple of seasons for the Bruins. If Nordstrom can get back to the 10 goals and 24 points that he posted for the Hurricanes a couple of years ago, then the Bruins will be getting a real steal for the money they’re paying him. But another season like last year, where he posts two goals in 70-plus games, will be a really average all-around season that could arguably be topped by players that the B’s already have in their minor league system. So the real question is whether Nordstrom can get back to his level from a couple of seasons ago while arguably surrounded by better talent in Boston than he had anytime recently in Carolina. There’s also simply the question of where Nordstrom is going to play given he’s versatile between positions and there doesn’t seem to be a pre-ordained spots for him up front.  

In Their Words: “I think my biggest asset as a player is my skating. I know the Bruins want to play fast, so that is, obviously, something I can help with. Then, just on special teams, the last couple years, I played a lot of PK, so that’s obviously something that I wanted to bring to the table, as well. I don’t want to limit myself to just be a special-teams guy, so hopefully I can take my game to the next level here with the Bruins.” –Joakim Nordstrom, on what kind of role he’s going to play for the Bruins now that he’s signed in Boston.

Overall Outlook: Nordstrom actually sounds a little bit like a former Swedish Bruins forward in P.J. Axelsson with skating and penalty killing as staples of his game, and he’d really settled into a supporting role with Carolina over the last few seasons. It remains to be seen just how competitive it’s going to be between veterans and young players for some of the bottom-6 roles with the Black and Gold this upcoming season, but Nordstrom is going to bring versatility, smarts and a strong skating game to the table in a combination that’s often difficult to beat. It should also be good for a guy like Nordstrom where the Bruins, an already strong offensive force, aren’t going to be looking for big numbers out of the veteran Swede.

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Noel Acciari

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Noel Acciari

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Noel Acciari.

Noel Acciari has always been known for throwing around his 5-foot-10, 208-pound body with reckless abandon and never backing down from a hit no matter how big the guy he’s tracking down. Those are great traits for a fourth-line center/winger that managed to get a full NHL season under his belt as part of a young B’s fourth line that had some great moments this past year. Acciari certainly has a lot going for him: Physicality, a local boy done good story as a Rhode Island kid and even a little offensive fire that adds to his value as an energy line forward.  

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What Happened Last Year: The 26-year-old Acciari made a nice step forward in his first full season with the Bruins as he suited up for 60 games, cracked double-digits with 10 goals scored and continued to play a heavy, punishing game when he was in the lineup. Acciari plays hard all the time and plays with a fearless tenacity, and those kinds of qualities rub off on the rest of the fourth line when he’s out there running around and making hits. Unfortunately, playing that way also leads to injuries and last season was no different as Acciari missed time after blocking a shot, absorbed a concussion and played through a sports hernia injury that required surgery following the season. It’s probably unfair to say that Acciari is injury prone, but injuries are just the cost of doing business with the way the former Providence College standout plays.  

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The biggest question with Acciari is if he can stay healthy enough to remain effective in his role with the Bruins. By all accounts Acciari had a very good season providing energy, physical oomph and even kicking in 10 goals while scrapping for offense around the front of the net. He’s dogged, fearless and the kind of player that will help a team win hockey games. But that style of play leads to injuries and time missed, and Acciari needs to find a way to stick in the lineup and finish up strong if he wants to remain an integral part of what the B’s are doing. Given that he’s shown some offensive spark and plays with true fire in his belly, the Bruins will certainly be patient with the aches and pains that go along with Acciari doing his job. But if Acciari truly wants to be a part of the core Bruins group, he’s also going to need to be a reliable, constant presence in the everyday lineup.   

In Their Words: “We’ve got a lot of confidence from this past season, and like I said, that can build up until next year, and get better from there, and make a deeper run next year. We want to continue what we did this past year and get even better, so it’s going to be a good hard summer, and work hard, and kind of have that bad taste in our mouth where we got knocked out this year. Let’s not have that again next year.” – Noel Acciari, on the mentality that he and his B’s teammates are looking for headed into next season. 

Overall Outlook: Acciari has earned his reputation as a tough competitor and a punishingly physical player, and he continues to hone the offensive production as a fourth-line player. It’s to his credit that he even got a bit of a look as the third -line center when Riley Nash went down with injury, and speaks to how the Rhode Island kid continues to up his game. That being said, it feels like Acciari is really in his sweet spot as a hard-hitting fourth-line winger that plays with energy and physicality. It all comes down to remaining as healthy as he can within his reckless playing style, and showing that he can stay in one piece at the NHL level while playing the way he does. Other than the occasional run-in with injuries, Acciari brings everybody anybody could want in a fourth-line energy winger.

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