WILMINGTON, Mass. – With Halloween right around the corner, the Bruins’ veterans might want to find a way to put a scare into rookie Jordan Caron.
A fake eye ball in his Gatorade or rubber bat thrown at him in the shower just might put the 19-year-old in his place. Because right now, Caron is playing as though the NHL is his playground rather than a haunted house.
During training camp, when Caron was making a push for a roster spot, head coach Claude Julien claimed he had yet to see Caron fear anything. According to the forward, that has continued.
“Not yet,” he said after practice today, “but for sure there’s going to be – it’s only been two games – I haven’t seen much. I’m sure I’m going to see tougher guys and tougher D men, so I want to play my game and hopefully keep going that way.”
That game starts first and foremost with fearlessness in front of the net. Even against high-caliber, muscle-bound NHL defensemen, Caron hasn’t been afraid to carve out a portion of the slot as his territory. His approach paid off Saturday night in New Jersey, where he scored his first NHL goal by screening for a Johnny Boychuk shot and then banging in the rebound.
Caron today admitted he hasn’t slept much since then because of all the excitement. So practice today was about refocusing and moving forward with his first NHL season.
“I don’t think it changes much,” said Caron about getting that NHL first out of the way early. “I need to keep playing hard; I want to score more than one. I want to keep going and have good games. We had good chances again and we want to keep going that way.”
Winger Mark Recchi has been fighting for position in front of the goal for 22 years. He knows that’s the best place to be to score goals, and he has been impressed with Caron’s ability to utilize his large body and position himself well for scoring chances.
Recchi also knows that in the post-lockout NHL, the punishment for planting in and around the slot isn’t as great because of the strict enforcement of the rules. That doesn’t mean you won’t get the odd stick in the back or glove upside the head. But Caron doesn’t plan on shying away from the jousting anytime soon.
“It’s not that bad. That’s what I’m good at – in front of the net and screening the goalie, tipping pucks,” he said. “It’s not that painful. For sure there’s D that are going to be hard to play against, but that’s what I like to do.”
A healthy scratch for the Bruins’ first game of the season, Caron seems to have found a home on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Blake Wheeler. For now, there’s no reason for Julien to mess with Caron’s position, and the coach still hasn’t seen Caron scared.
“I saw a couple really good back checks – one on [Ilya] Kovalchuk the other day that created a 2-on-1 and he came right back and picked him up. He doesn’t seem to be afraid to battle against, or even be intimidated or even in awe, of elite players,” Julien said. “He just goes out there and plays hard. He stood in front of the net the other day the way I saw him do in those two preseason rookie games. That’s where he cashes in a lot of his goals. I think he’s just out there playing his game. I think with Bergy on his line, and the coaching staff, encouraging him to be himself and play his game has helped him.”
The Bruins want Caron to continue to be a model of courage on the ice. But it might be fun to see if they can frighten him even a little off the ice.