nhl playoffs

Nazem Kadri's Hit on Tommy Wingels Was Really Dumb

Kadri was suspended three games, needlessly putting the Maple Leafs in deep trouble against the Bruins.

by Dave Lozo
Apr 13 2018, 2:10pm

Photo by Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE [April 13, 8:10 PM EST]

Kadri was handed a three-game suspension, the NHL announced Friday night.

It's Friday morning. The scene is a Tim Hortons on King Street in Toronto. Two men sit down over coffee to discuss Game 1 of the first-round series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.

"See the game last night?"

"I did not, as I was in an isolation chamber all night in order to help the premise of this bit."

"We were getting blown out in the third period, eh, then Nazem Kadri turned into Brad Marchand."

"Are you telling me Kadri took over the game using his skills, scored a couple goals, set up another, and the Leafs emerged victorious?"

"No, the other thing."

With the game all but over—I mean, who comes back from down 4-1 with 12 minutes to go in a playoff game?—Kadri tried to remove Tommy Wingels' head from his body with a hit so dangerous that even Marchand had to be like, "Even I wouldn't do that," before thinking about it for a second and correcting himself: "Well, I would have made it look more like an accident."

And this was after Kadri kneed Rick Nash and boarded Wingels earlier in the game. It was like he tried to download the Marchand app but lost the connection before getting the game-changing offensive abilities.

Kadri launched himself into a prone Wingels and earned a five-minute penalty and game misconduct for charging. If Drew Doughty's hit on William Carrier on Wednesday night was worth a one-game suspension, Kadri should get at least that and is certainly deserving of a second game. While you can argue that Doughty caught Carrier's head by accident, Kadri may as well have screamed, "I'm aiming for your head!" before leaving his feet to drive Wingels' head into the dasher.

You won't believe this, but Kadri said after the game that this was all just a big misunderstanding, like an episode of Three's Company where Jack Tripper commits a violent assault against Mr. Roper.

"I just felt like he made contact with (Marner's) head to start and I didn't see a call there," Kadri said. "And he was turning up the wall so I was committed to the hit... I certainly wasn't trying to hit him when he was down like that."

Marchand would have had you believing the hit was your fault with his excuse; Kadri confessed a motive for dispensing his idea of justice before inventing the least plausible alibi imaginable. This is why cops always wait for their PBA representative before talking to internal affairs.

You won't find a dumber, series-changing hit than the one Kadri leveled on Wingels, from the hit itself to the potential repercussions to the underlying motivations.

The Leafs were down three goals and probably headed for a loss but if there's a team that can score three goals in a hurry, it's Toronto. That was hardly the time to go for the premeditated kill shot that removes any hope of a comeback. At least a case can be made that Doughty's hit on Carrier was a clean one that went wrong at the last moment but Kadri decided it was time to settle a score long before score-settling time. It wasn't time to Set The Tone for Game 2 yet.

The biggest issue beyond trying to put Wingels in a coma is the fact that two games without Kadri could mean the series is over.

According to Natural Stat Trick, Kadri's line with Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner was nearly in the black in 5-on-5 shot attempts on a night when the Leafs were utterly demolished at even strength. Kadri is perhaps the Leafs' most effective two-way forward after Auston Matthews. He can play a 200-foot game and is part of the forward depth that gives the Leafs a chance to upset the Bruins, as his presence on the second line allows Tyler Bozak a more sheltered yet effective third-line role.

Patrice Bergeron's line versus Kadri's line? The Leafs don't mind that. Bergeron versus a line centered by Bozak? Or Tomas Plekanec? That's a problem for Toronto.

Two games with Bozak and Plekanec or any other center that enters the lineup for Kadri punching above their weight may be the difference between winning in seven games or losing in six games. That's what one selfish decision represents in the playoffs when there isn't much separating two teams. If Kadri was a movie character, he'd be Robert DeNiro in Heat going to the hotel to kill Waingro purely for revenge when he was home free. Just drive to the airport! Resist the temptation!

The silliest thing going in sports is at the root of why the Leafs' season may have been submarined in Game 1—Kadri was taking part in the time-honored tradition of Sticking Up For A Teammate. Because as we all know, hockey players are cops and they are on the ice to enforce the law. Kadri saw Wingels hit Marner in a questionable manner, and nobody does that to Kadri's teammate. Not while he's on the beat!

And for that, Kadri will have the respect of everyone in the locker room, which is the only thing in hockey that's more important than winning, apparently.

Unless the NHL's wheel of justice inexplicably lands on no suspension, Kadri has needlessly put the Leafs in deep trouble against the Bruins.

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