Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri will have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Friday for a vicious hit he delivered on Tommy Wingels of the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoff series.
But to hear Kadri describe it, he’s a victim of circumstance.
“I certainly wasn’t trying to hit him while he was down like that. I was already committed to the hit. If he’s still standing up, there isn’t anything wrong on that, but he fell,” said Kadri, after the Leafs’ humbling 5-1 loss to the Bruins on Thursday night in Boston.
Kadri saw this, quickly skated toward Wingels and delivered a leaping hit while the Bruins’ winger was on his knees, driving Wingels’ head into the boards. Kadri was given a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct, a lowlight among a collection of them for Toronto in Game 1.
Wingels was face down on the ice after the hit, and did not return to the game.
“He’s still being evaluated,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who agreed that Kadri should have been ejected. “I thought it was the appropriate call. Where it goes from there is out of my hands,” Boston’s Brad Marchand wasn’t a fan of the hit, either. “I don’t think it looked too good. They’re gonna review it. It is what it is. I’m not gonna worry about it,” he said.
The Department of Player Safety issued its first suspension of the postseason on Thursday night, giving Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty one game for a hit to the head of Vegas Golden Knights forward William Carrier. Doughty had never been suspended.
The same can’t be said for Kadri. He was banned for four games in April 2016 for cross-checking Detroit Red Wings forward Luke Glendening, four games in March 2015 for an illegal check to the head of Matt Fraser of the Edmonton Oilers and three games in November 2013 for interference on Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.
But in this case, he claims it was just an unfortunate series of events.
“Initially I thought he just made contact with [Mitch Marner’s] head to start and I didn’t see a call there,” Kadri said. “He was turning up the wall, so I was committed to the hit. He ended up falling. It happened pretty quick, and I think he was reaching for the puck. I don’t think I stuck my leg out or my arm out, or whatever the case is, but it’s in the hands of the NHL at this point.”.
That defense is what the Department of Player Safety will probably hear from Kadri at his hearing on Friday. What Kadri probably will hear from the NHL: that he had time and space to avoid this hit, and that the way he finished this hit would indicate he had some intent to injure Wingels.
He’ll also hear about the undeniable context of the hit: that it occurred less than four minutes after Kadri was given a minor boarding penalty for an earlier hit on Wingels; and that it occurred 37 seconds after center Sean Kuraly gave the Bruins an emphatic 4-1 lead.
Kadri’s actions were petulant and dangerous. It would be stunning if he were in uniform for Game 2 on Saturday.