The National Hockey League’s Player Safety has officially suspended Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri for the remainder of the first-round series against the Bruins for a brutal cross-check to the head of Boston Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk in the third period of Saturday night’s Game Two win over the Maple Leafs.
“This is not a hockey play. Instead, this is a player retaliating against an opponent by using his stick as a weapon to make forceful and direct head contact.”
At the 14:03 minute of the final regulation period, already down 3-1 on the scoreboard, Kadri delivered the cross-check heard by everyone watching to an unsuspected Jake DeBrusk. Just seconds prior, DeBrusk laid a borderline dirty hit on Leafs forward Patrick Marleau, hitting him into the curved glass by the benches. Kadri was looking for retaliation but took his actions to another level.
It was not just that play from DeBrusk that drove Kadri to make that hit. All throughout Game Two, both DeBrusk and Kadri were involved in quite a bit of rough play with a lot of hits, battles, and pushing before, during, and after whistles. Part of the reason could be because of the style of game the Bruins came out playing.
For the first time in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston was hitting everything in sight, making hard strides on the forecheck, and getting into numerous scuffles in front of both Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen. Right in the middle of a lot of these war of pushing and shoving, was Jake DeBrusk and Nazem Kadri.
Later in the game, Kadri skates out of the box after receiving a two-minute minor late in the second-period for hooking Brad Marchand, stealing the puck from David Krejci who was about to shoot the puck towards the goal. As soon as Kadri pickpockets Krejci, he collides hard with DeBrusk. In full speed at that time, it appeared to be a clean body hit, but slowed down the knee of DeBrusk was the point of contact and sent Kadri flying in the air.
Kadri stayed on the ice for a while, clearly shaken up by the collision, but also possibly looking for a penalty. Unfortunately for him and the Maple Leafs, no penalty was handed to DeBrusk whatsoever, ensuring some justifiable outrage by the Toronto fan base. Kadri ended up returning to the game for Toronto, scoring their only goal on a slick deflection off of a Travis Dermott point shot, beating Rask in the third period.
Being it 3-1 in the third period, the Leafs were putting on some great control on Boston, gaining some in-zone chances and looking the best they looked all night long. For a moment in time, Toronto had a true chance at making a push for a comeback. We all know that a three-goal lead is not 100% safe in today’s NHL, even more so in the playoffs.
With six minutes left in the third period, Leafs forward Patrick Marleau attempts to bring the puck into the Bruins defensive zone along the boards right beside the bench area. The veteran forward is met by DeBrusk who finishes his check into the stanchion, (where the boards become smaller for the benches). The hit had similarities to the infamous hit by Zdeno Chara to former Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty.
Thankfully, Marleau was not injured on the play, but Kadri just happened to see the play from the view of the ice and quite possibly had the memories of seeing Pacioretty go down as did everyone else. Additionally, when Kadri saw the #74 on DeBrusk’s sweater, the anger of the missed knee-on-knee call as well as the frustration of the game could all have been motivating factors. However, NHL Player Safety said the following regarding the retaliation aspect, also noting the Marleau hit was legal:
“While we understand that Kadri took offense to DeBrusk’s hit against Marleau, players are simply not permitted to flagrantly violate league playing rules because they feel that retribution is justified.”
The Maple Leafs will be without Nazem Kadri for the remainder of the first round but will have his services back if they eliminate the Bruins in their best-of-seven series. Therefore, his suspension is a minimum of three games and a maximum of five games. Do you agree? Let me know via Twitter @tkdmaxbjj.