The Bruins shutdown defenseman is not only the most under rated player on hockey's best team, but one of the most under rated players in the NHL.
The Boston Bruins have such an interesting defense, because of the many different styles that they play. Charlie McAvoy is a smooth skating, puck carrying defenseman, but not your typical offensive defenseman. His goal scoring touch still needs work, and he is also strong in his defensive zone, and a physical player. Torey Krug on the other hand is your typical offensive defenseman. He is the quarterback of the league's second best powerplay, and a very quick player with the puck on his stick. Veteran captain Zdeno Chara might just be the slowest player in the NHL, but he makes up for it with smarts, and physical play. Other defenseman include small, but quick Matt Grzelcyk, and a mix of Jeremy Lauzon, John Moore, and Connor Clifton. Of course, I have left out Brandon Carlo.
Take a quick poll of hockey fans, and I guarantee you that most have never even heard of Brandon Carlo. He doesn't show up on highlights, and doesn't show up much on the scoreboard either. He's not the typical flashy player that young kids try to mimic. But what he is, is one of the best, if not the very best defensive defenseman in the game of hockey. He is someone who means a lot more to the Bruins than people think.
Brandon Carlo made his NHL debut on the Bruins season opener of the 2016-17 season against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He registered an assist, and was a plus 5 in the Bruins 6-3 victory. Despite the low recognition, he hasn't turned back from there. He played in all 82 games his rookie season, and in his four NHL seasons, has missed just 19 total games. An interesting stat to note, is that in those 19 games, the Bruins went 8-11 (a .421 winning percentage). Now I know this is a small sample size, but it still means something. The Bruins have been a playoff team in each of his four NHL seasons, and well above five hundred as well. Even if it is just a few games, the Bruins struggle without Carlo.
Over the past two seasons, Carlo has really taken a step forward. He has always been a smart player, but things have really started coming together for him. He has become more physical, and also more comfortable with the puck. It's not like he's going to smash someone every single shift, or go on end to end rushes, but just added those dimensions to his game have made him much more versatile. He just adds those skill sets to his game.
Something that often goes under the radar as well is Carlo's penalty killing ability. The Bruins have the third best PK in the NHL, and Carlo is their best killer. Some of the strengths of his game (winning puck battles, retrieving pucks, intercepting passes, and moving the puck quickly), really translate to the penalty kill. In terms of the PK, I fully believe he is one of the best in the league.
Carlo has the second best plus/minus among defenseman on the Bruins behind only Charlie McAvoy. He also plays the third most minutes per game behind McAvoy and Zdeno Chara. In terms of ranking the Bruins defenseman, McAvoy is definitely first, but after that it gets tough. Personally I go with Carlo at number two, but no doubt about it, Krug will garner a lot more money this offseason than his partner Carlo makes. It is simply how the game works, goals make you money.
There are obviously many reasons the Bruins have been successful this season, and no doubt about it, their defense has been at the very front of that. They don't have a superstar d-man, but by committee, they are one of the best units in hockey. Brandon Carlo is a smart, strong skating, quick passing, and shutdown defenseman. Doubting what he does for the Bruins is just ridiculous. Watch his game a little closer, and you will see a lot more of what he brings to the table.