The NHL Department of Player Safety has spoken, and it’s a resounding message that will surely impact the Bruins and Maple Leafs' playoff series in a significant way. Leafs forward and 30-goal scorer Nazem Kadri has been suspended for three playoff games by the Player Safety group for recklessly boarding Tommy Wingels in the third period of Boston’s 5-1 Game 1 win at TD Garden.
It’s the fourth suspension of Kadri’s career and his absence is another blow to a Toronto hockey club that was soundly beaten by the Bruins in the first game of their best-of-seven series. Kadri is one of Toronto’s best two-way forwards and power play performers, and has been extremely effective against the Bruins over the last couple of years as well.
But now Kadri will take a seat in the playoff series for the next few games after a foolish decision to retaliate against a Tommy Wingels hit on Mitch Marner, and deliver a hit to Wingels' head into the boards while completely defenseless and on his knees. After the game Kadri basically admitted he zoomed in for the cheap shot hit because of the earlier hit on Marner, and clearly the NHL was listening and not impressed.
“Initially I just thought he made contact with Mitchy's [Mitchell Marner] head to start, and I didn’t see a call there,” said Kadri of the hit during his Game 1 postgame comments. “He was turning up the wall, so I was coming into the hit, and then he ended up falling. It happened pretty quick, and I think he was reaching for the puck. I haven't really watched it yet, but I don't think I stuck my leg out or my arm out. Whatever the case is, but it’s in the hands of the NHL at this point.”
Kadri never slowed down and launched into the hit as described in the Player Safety video going over the suspension, and the weighty three-game playoff punishment is a significant statement from the league.
“Players are never permitted to retaliate in an illegal fashion,” said the NHL’s Vice President of Department of Player Safety Damian Echevarietta narrating the suspension video. “This is a forceful and illegal hit delivered on a defenseless opponent for the purpose of retribution and message-sending. Such plays will not be tolerated.”
The suspension video did acknowledge that Wingels delivered a hit on Marner that initially drew Kadri’s attention, but there is no justification for delivering a dirty, dangerous hit with the intent to injure one of your opponents. Wingels didn’t skate at Bruins practice on Friday and was listed as “questionable” for Saturday night’s Game 2 after never returning to Thursday night’s game following the hit. Regardless of whether or not Wingels is healthy enough to play on Saturday, the dangerous, predatory nature of the hit, Kadri’s past history and the sheer stupidity of his actions all made it a no-brainer for the NHL to deliver a stiff, unflinching punishment as they did.