The Colorado Avalanche have jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on the St. Louis Blues and based on the regular season, the Avs are one of the favorites in the NHL to win this year’s Stanley Cup. The team is deep, healthy and hungry – so the last thing they need is an unnecessary distraction. But that’s exactly what we have on our hands now.
Colorado center Nazem Kadri delivered a head-shot to Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in the third period of last night’s game, garnering himself a match penalty in the process, not to mention the obvious ire of his St. Louis opponents.
“The guy can’t control himself,” said Blues left winger Brayden Schenn. “In the playoffs, he’s a repeat offender with bad hits, greasy hits. He’s got a guy in a vulnerable position and he picks nothing but the head.”
Kadri has been offered an in-person hearing by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety (which will actually be done virtually due to the pandemic), meaning there is the possibility of a suspension longer than five games. While Kadri technically is not a repeat offender since his last infraction was more than 18 months ago, he does have a history of dodgy hits in the playoffs and that cannot be ignored.
Which brings up the big question: Why, Kadri, why?
When Kadri is on top of his game, he can be an incredibly effective performer – just look at last season’s results in the playoff bubble when he put up 18 points in 15 games for a banged-up Avs team that probably deserved a better fate than losing to Dallas in the second round.
And overall, Kadri has been a consummate two-way player for years, using a combination of skill and grit to contribute at both ends of the ice, where he can line up against top competition and still be a positive possession player overall. Plus, Kadri will fight when the situation calls for it.
But you have to be in the game to be effective and too often, Kadri has taken himself out of the equation in the playoffs with silly stunts. Two years in a row as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kadri got himself suspended in the first round of the post-season – both times against Boston. In 2018, he was banned three games for a hit from behind on Tommy Wingels, followed by a 2019 suspension that saw him miss the rest of the series after a cross-check on Jake DeBrusk in Game 2. Toronto lost both of those series and had Kadri not been missing for most of the time, the Leafs easily could have changed their fortunes at least once, if not both times.
Boston took advantage of Toronto’s loss in those series and while Colorado is a much better team than St. Louis this year, let’s not forget that most of these Blues players were the same guys that won the Cup just two seasons ago – so do not count them out, no matter how many points they ceded to the Avs in the regular-season division standings.
And that’s one of the most vexing things about Kadri’s penchant for suspensions in the playoffs: he automatically gives the opponent fuel while simultaneously taking himself, a very valuable player, out of the lineup.
The Blues are a proud team and they now get home-ice advantage for the next two contests. They’re down 2-0 in the series, but they are far from dead now – all they have to do is look to Faulk (and Robert Bortuzzo, who was felled by Colorado’s Tyson Jost in the same game) as their brother who was wronged and must be avenged. And winning is always the best revenge.
So why does Kadri do it? That’s the question that is so hard to answer. No doubt he is a fierce competitor and he wants that Cup ring just like everyone else on the Avs, but he always seems to drop the grenade in his own foxhole. Yes, the playoffs are a war of attrition and battering your opponent with hits is a great way to throw them off mentally and grind them down physically, but again – you can’t go so far over the line. Kadri has now missed the mark three times in his playoff career and it’s hard to comprehend why he hasn’t learned his lesson yet.