Everything is amplified in the playoffs. Goals are more important, tension is higher, and battles are tougher.
Unfortunately for Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, he’s taken his battle a bit too far.
Kadri has been suspended for the remainder of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for cross-checking Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk.
The Toronto forward was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for the hit, which happened late in Saturday’s 4-1 Bruins win. Referees for the game were Brad Meier, working his 74th career playoff game, and Trevor Hanson, refereeing his 11th.
Kadri went after DeBrusk after the Bruins forward checked Toronto’s Patrick Marleau into the curved glass near the end of the Boston’ bench. The two players had been battling each other hard all night, with DeBrusk catching Kadri knee-on-knee earlier in the game on a hit that sent Kadri flying.
Another look at the Kadri-DeBrusk collision pic.twitter.com/2kP3YQ2QXH
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 14, 2019
Fortunately, neither player was injured in the collision. No penalty was called on the play.
I was told this wasn’t considered a suspendable hit by the league, for two key reasons.
1. Kadri jumped to avoid contact, and that caused the angle of impact to change.
2. DeBrusk didn’t “extend” his knee outside his body to make the hit.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock tiptoed around any comments on the officiating, only making a reference to the fact that the officials – like teams – are eliminated each round in the playoffs.
“Each and every night you get a set of four officials,” Babcock said on Sunday. “They’re no different than the teams. They’re trying to advance. They eliminate officials as they go. They have people that watch them, and they decide whether they’re the right people to move on.”
“Everyone wants the same thing. The teams want the same thing. You want to advance if you’re the officials. For me to sit back the next day and evaluate that — it’s not within my control.”
Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy spoke after practice on Monday about discipline, in preparation for Game 3 against the Leafs — a game where Kadri’s absence will be notable.
“If we take a hit, we can’t just chase a guy down,” said Cassidy. “You got to have some level of discipline. Sort out how you’re going to change that momentum. It’s not about getting a guy back that hits you. There would be no players left on the ice. You’ve got to manage that.”
Kadri wasn’t able to, for the second year in a row. He finds himself in the same spot he was last postseason, when a first-round hit on Boston’s Tommy Wingels saw him suspended for 3 games. The Leafs lost that series in seven.
This is Kadri’s fourth suspension. All four have been related to hits to an opponent’s head.
“This isn’t the first time,” a league source told The Athletic’s James Mirtle. “History is definitely a factor.”
He was suspended for three games in 2013 for an elbow to the head of Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Kadri sat for four games in 2015 for an illegal check to the head of Edmonton’s Matt Fraser and for another four in 2016 for cross-checking Detroit’s Luke Glendening in the head. As mentioned previously, Kadri was also suspended for three games during the opening round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs for an illegal check to the head of Bruins forward Tommy Wingels.
Kadri’s suspension is potentially the longest suspension of his NHL career, and the longest ban this season aside from Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension – later reduced to 14 – for an illegal check to the head. This may also turn out to be
the longest postseason ban since Matt Cooke was hit with a 7-game sentence for kneeing Colorado’s Tyson Barrie in the opening round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Any time you cross the line,” said Babcock, “you have a chance to let someone else make the decision whether you play or not. So the way I look at it here today is we can’t worry about that now, just have to move on.”
The Leafs will to their best to move on without Kadri.