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Playoff Redemption: The Nazem Kadri story

Can Kadri revamp his playoff reputation?

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at New York Rangers Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been about a year since Nazem Kadri saw his phone light up with Kyle Dubas flashing on the caller ID. A call that would inform him of the end of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After being suspended from two straight playoff series, many Toronto fans pointed the finger at Kadri when the Leafs failed to advance past the Boston Bruins in both instances.

It felt like the perfect time for a change.

What happened inside of those two infamous sequences that lead to Kadri’s move from the only NHL team he’d ever known?

Kadri tried to stand up for his teammates in a way that ultimately hurt them. It’s hard to think about the big picture in the heat of the moment, and Naz failed in that regard. He let his emotions get the best of him - and while that can be a good thing at times during the playoffs - in both instances, he got carried away.

Fortunately for Kadri, the end of his time in Toronto meant the beginning of a new chapter - a chapter that involved moving to the Mile High City and joining one of the best young teams in the NHL. The high flying Avs were already on the verge of becoming a Stanley Cup contender and Naz would only help that become a reality. With Kadri playing behind Nathan MacKinnon, the Avs have the depth to reignite a dynasty. The 2020 Stanley Cup isn’t just an opportunity for Colorado to win their third Championship, it’s also an opportunity for Nazem Kadri to redeem his playoff legacy.

The Good

For the Avalanche fans who were still skeptical about what Kadri added to the team, those questions were answered when he stuck up for teammate Joonas Donskoi after he took a high hit from Ryan Lindgren. Kadri pummeled the Ranger defender and sent a clear message to the opposition and his teammates. He may be there to help the offense but Naz is also there to hold you accountable. This sequence seemed to galvanize the group.

Kadri has also looked good before the whistle, scoring 36 points in 51 games. There’s no telling just how good his year would have been had he been healthy throughout.

After suffering a pretty serious injury, Kadri was one of the lucky Avs players who took the quarantine shutdown to get healthy.

He was lights out in the round-robin portion of the NHL’s return to the 2020 season. In games where leaders like MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog were taking bad penalties, Naz was making an impact on the score sheet. Doing so while providing the most exciting moment of the Avalanche season so far. If you missed his buzzer-beater goal here, here it is:

Kadri’s last-second game-winning goal was just the tip of the iceberg during round-robin play. He was strong on the puck, backchecking well, and continually found himself in the right places for scoring opportunities.

At a time when many fans expect Kadri to add “edge” to the lineup, he was playing like the offensive force he was drafted to be.

The Target on his Back

As the Avalanche march towards a potentially long playoff run, it has seemed as though opponents are going to focus on trying to get Kadri off his game. He was penalized for taking a swipe at Minnesota Wild forward Marcus Foligno in the exhibition game against the Wild. It seemed like Foligno was specifically targeting Kadri to create a 4-on-4 rather than giving the Avalanche a PP opportunity. The refs seemed to agree since they sent both players to the sin bin but assessed the Wild an additional roughing minor. Kadri handled the situation well. This sequence does show, however, that teams are aware of Kadri’s reputation and that they are going to try to coerce him into making another mistake.

The Avalanche will open their Stanley Cup Playoffs with a series against the Arizona Coyotes. The Yotes will be in the Central Division after next season, so this could potentially be the start of a new rivalry. The Avalanche and Yotes have a bit of history due to a Zac Rinaldo sucker punch and subsequent beating from Erik Johnson. Let’s hope that Kadri can participate in any extracurriculars responsibly.

“Don’t Play Boston”

Nazem caught a lot of criticism for the infamous plays that effectively ended his time in Toronto. Rightfully so. Both instances saw Kadri losing his composure during a playoff series against the Bruins. When Kadri arrived in Denver, many asked Joe Sakic how he planned to protect Kadri from another suspension. His response? “Don’t Play Boston.”

The Avalanche can only play Boston if they meet in a Stanley Cup Final. If that comes to fruition, Kadri will have already done what he was acquired to do - and we’ll be writing another Nazem Kadri piece alongside every other hockey writer in North America.