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Nazem Kadri digs a deeper hole for Toronto

The two-way center crossed the line with his hit on Tommy Wingels in Game 1 and now the Maple Leafs will be missing a crucial piece for three games

Gag if you must, but Nazem Kadri could learn something from Brad Marchand. Specifically, how the Boston Bruins agitator comported himself in Game 1 of his series against Kadri’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

True, Marchand appeared to try necking Toronto’s Leo Komarov at one point and I’m certainly not justifying that tactic, but what the Bruins left winger did do was play an edgy, aggressive game without costing his team in the penalty department. Marchand also contributed the opening goal of the game and an assist after that, while playing a key role on a Bruins penalty-kill that silenced a normally potent Toronto power play.

Kadri, on the other hand, got himself suspended three games for a dangerous hit on Tommy Wingels after Wingels took a run at Mitch Marner in the third period.

As the NHL’s department of player safety rules in the explanation video, Kadri’s actions were clearly retaliatory and the NHL does not look kindly on such things - especially since Kadri crunched Wingels as he was prone. The retaliation was worse than the initial infraction and now Kadri will miss three crucial games.

Three games is nothing to sniff at when it comes to the playoffs and with Drew Doughty of the Kings getting suspended for his Game 1 hit the night prior, it’s clear that the department of player safety wants players to think about their actions during this tournament. Sadly for Kadri, it was an unnecessary risk.

When he’s on his game, Kadri is a very good two-way center. Like Marchand, he has a tendency to go over the line and as long as he doesn’t go too far over, he’s a great asset to the Maple Leafs. But he does them no good in the press box.

Game 1 was a disaster for the Maple Leafs and losing Kadri ups the stakes for Game 2 in particular. But perhaps the team can look at what happened to Kadri and learn. Because the Maple Leafs aren’t going to win this series by playing edgy, physical hockey - that ain’t them. If they want to beat the Bruins, they have to outskate them and outskill them.

This shouldn’t be difficult, since the Leafs have consistently done so over the past two seasons when playing the Bruins, but the playoffs apparently made Toronto jumpy.

And hey, let’s not read too much into the first game of a series, one in which the Bruins were buoyed by a raucous home crowd and the knowledge that many members of their core already have a Stanley Cup ring from 2011. But Boston was clearly a lot more confident in their game plan than Toronto was and it showed.

Once Kadri returns (if the Bruins don’t sweep), his job should be clear: take away time and space from Boston’s forwards and finish your checks. Try to generate offense so that the Bruins are forced to defend all three of Toronto’s scoring lines. As for trying to throw the Bruins off their game with on-the-line antics? Forget about it. Not worth it.

Marchand was effective in Game 1 because his chirping didn’t get him in trouble with the refs and when he was on the ice, he was helping his linemates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak put on a puck possession clinic.

By the time Kadri took his major boarding penalty in the third period, Game 1 was basically over. But to put his team behind in Games 2,3 and 4 before they’ve even begun compounded Kadri’s infraction on Wingels. Toronto is the underdog in this series and giving an experienced Boston team another edge is the last thing you want to do.

When Kadri returns for Game 5, he needs to make it up to his team. For his sake, let’s hope the series isn’t finished by then.



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