NEWARK — There wasn’t much of an argument to be made when Boston opted to send Connor Clifton back down to the AHL in early December.
An emergency call-up from Providence when the injury bug decimated Boston’s D corps a month prior, Clifton was simply on the wrong side of the numbers’ game — with the B’s needing to allocate room for the return of more regulars on the blue line.
But when it came to his play on the ice, Clifton didn’t do much to play his way out of the lineup, based on Bruce Cassidy’s comments.
“I thought he was really good the first time (here), Cassidy said on Wednesday. “He played huge minutes there for the first few games here with (Jeremy) Lauzon. … He’s not mistake-free, nobody is, But for the most part, he did what was asked.”
While he didn’t etch his name on the scoresheet during that nine-game stint with the club back in November and December, Clifton didn’t look much like a defenseman earning his first look up in the NHL ranks. During that first stint in Boston, Clifton complemented Boston’s second D pairing alongside Torey Krug, with the duo generating a 55.09 Corsi For Percentage over 96:25 of 5v5 TOI together — an extended sample size in which they were out for three goals for and zero goals against.
Given his impressive offensive production down in Providence this season (six goals, 27 points over 53 games), one might be disappointed that Clifton’s bombastic, aggressive style of play from the blue line has translated to points so far up with the Bruins.
But for a 23-year-old defenseman that has stood out among a crowded field of AHL call-ups this season, Clifton’s true value lies in the little things — both on and off the ice.