Things are looking a little different on the Boston Bruins blue line since the last time Brandon Carlo played.
The B’s defenseman has been out since sustaining an oblique injury April 1. At that point, the Bruins were without Kevan Miller, who was slowly working his way back from some knee soreness, and Mike Reilly, who was acquired at the NHL trade deadline.
So, there are some pieces to fit together once Carlo is back, which should be Monday or Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.
After spending his rookie year on a pairing with Zdeno Chara, Carlo has spent the bulk of his career playing alongside one of the NHL’s most gifted puck-movers in Torey Krug. For that reason, Matt Grzelcyk always seemed like a logical partner this season, but injuries to both have prevented them from spending a ton of time together (90:19 all season, to be exact).
But Grzelcyk has played well with Charlie McAvoy, and Reilly’s game seems to suit Carlo well.
It’s a lot to think about and tinker with, but it’s something that Bruce Cassidy already has pondered.
“(Carlo will) go with Grizz or Reilly, probably, in the long run,” Cassidy said after Friday’s practice over Zoom. “We could get back to the three pairs that have a defender and a puck-mover, so to speak, strength. Lauzon and McAvoy, they started out well together. Could be Grizz and Carlo, could be Grizz and Miller — when Grizz broke into the league, he had Miller — and then it would be Reilly and Carlo or Miller, right?
“So, if those are our top six, we feel if we do it that way we have a natural puck-mover in each group and more of a defender. If Grizz stays with McAvoy, then it’s Reilly and Carlo, Reilly and Miller. We’re comfortable with both, because, really, Reilly wouldn’t have had a long partnership with either one., so it’s more or less let’s get up to speed and see where it goes — and then who does Lauzy fit best with? So, there’s a little bit of that that goes into it.
“Sometimes it happens organically, and other times it’s matchup-oriented as you get closer to the playoffs, what’s the opposition look like, what do you need, and then you go from there. So, I think you could see any number of different pairs right through the end of the year, and then once we get into the playoffs we’ll see, like I said, what’s the best fit.”
So, what does that look like? Allow us to lay out a few of the options.
Then, the Bruins would be healthy scratching Jakub Zboril, Connor Clifton, Jarred Tinordi and Steven Kampfer. For a team that has had its blue line depth tested all season, that is an enviable group heading into the postseason.
Lauzon and Miller would probably be the two that you could argue aren’t nightly lineup locks, though they’re pretty close, especially Miller. Regardless, having six NHL-caliber defensemen competing for two spots is a problem any team would welcome.
No matter what, building the back end with the six Cassidy named should inspire plenty of confidence heading into the postseason.