PROVIDENCE – The venue and teammates have changed, but the role is still the same for Jordan Caron.
The first-year pro winger, who started out the season by contributing seven points in 20 games for the Bruins, is producing well for the Providence (AHL) farm club and also receiving as much faith from head coach Rob Murray as he was getting from Boston coach Claude Julien.
With the P-Bruins protecting a one-goal lead Friday night against then-first-place Portland at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, Murray turned to Caron – along with veterans Jeremy Reich and Trent Whitfield – to make sure the lead held up.
After a defensive-zone draw win by Whitfield, the P-Bruins were off to the races and Caron dished the puck over to Reich for the game-clinching empty-net goal.
“That’s good, too,” Caron, who was often on the ice at the end of Boston wins earlier this season, said after the game about being on the ice with the game on the line. “It shows he has confidence in me and I want to make the most of it.”
For most of his time with the P-Bruins since his season debut with the club Dec. 10, Caron — Boston’s first-round pick in 2009 — has been fine-tuning his game just as Boston hoped. Let’s face it, the only reason he lost his job with the parent club was the salary cap, so heading down to Providence was a bit of a bummer for the 20-year-old. He says it didn’t take him long to realize that for the long term he would benefit from all the ice time he’d get with the P-Bruins.
It took him nine games to score his first goal, but Caron’s game has never been based just on offense. It was Caron’s positioning, instincts and responsible nature (he was a fixture on the penalty kill) that earned him that spot on the Bruins’ opening-day roster, so as long as he continued to play his game, and work hard doing it, he would make the P-Bruins a better team.
While the P-Bruins and Caron struggled in December, January has been a different story. Providence has won seven of its last eight after it beat Portland Friday, and Caron has put up 6-6-12 totals and a plus-1 rating in 14 contests.
“I knew he had a lot more to give offensively. It was only a matter of time offensively and he’s really started to come around,” Murray said.
Key to Caron’s turnaround was a switch in position. A left-handed shot, Caron had always been most comfortable skating on his off wing before Boston moved him to the left to play with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi in the fall. When he got to Providence, Caron requested he stay on the left, but after a while he and Murray decided the right would be the best place for him for now.
“Defensively, sometimes it’s harder in the neutral zone and on the breakouts because you’re always on your backhand,” said Caron, who has found a home skating alongside Zach Hamill and Reich. “But in the offensive zone, it’s easier to make passes, gain entry and go towards the net on your backhand playing with the puck. So it’s been a good switch for me.”
Caron says he understands a player isn’t going to perform his best over an entire 80-game schedule, and it’s just about bouncing back and limiting the off nights – which he thinks he has managed to do. Murray said another mental hurdle Caron had to clear when dropping down from the NHL to the AHL was accepting that not every pass would be perfect, and not every game would flow as smoothly as your average NHL game.
The numbers are there, as he has posted 6-9-15 totals in 23 games. So is the belief from the coaching staff and the chemistry with his linemates. Caron might not make it back to Boston this season, but at least he’s doing all he can to make it tough for the Bruins to keep him on the farm, and helping the P-Bruins win again after an atrocious start.
“I think we’ve been playing great. We’re winning. We haven’t lost too many after Christmas,” said Caron. “I think for me, I’m playing better than at the start. And my confidence is getting back. I’m still missing a few chances sometimes, and I’ve got to just keep playing the way I am and playing great with Hamill and Reich. I think we’re creating a lot of chances, so that’s a good sign.”