November 14 2013 12:14AM
Nazem Kadri received a match penalty against the Minnesota Wild for an illegal check to the head of Mikael Granlund. If you check the video, you can see that the official on the broadcast right, the veteran Dan O'Halloran, was the one that made the call, and not Trent Knorr, who had been working in his first NHL game.
Anyway, that's elementary. A match penalty means that Kadri is suspended until the league reviews the play, but I have to imagine it gets rescinded. A similar thing happened with Anton Belov, who levelled Claude Giroux on Saturday, but on further review, it was just a strong shoulder-on-shoulder hit that looked a little more violent than it was. I'm not too worried with the hit on Granlund.
But that's not the only play Nazem the Dream has to worry about from Wednesday's game. Kadri also levelled Nik Backstrom in the first period, and the image is forever immortalized as the header of this post.
Here's video of the hit, if you missed it:
This somehow earned Kadri just two minutes. Niklas Backstrom was down on the ice for quite some time and wound up leaving the game. He probably should have left the ice sooner than he did, because he looked to be knocked unconscious in the moments after the collision took place. The back of his helmet slammed against the ice, and there isn't a lot of padding there..
To me, this is the more vicious check, and I have to think that Kadri getting two minutes for this collision is partly why O'Halloran assessed the match penalty later in the contest, just to keep things from getting out of control on the ice.
Is it a suspendable hit, though? The NHL cracked down on goaltender interference after the outcry when Milan Lucic was not suspended for his egregious collision on Ryan Miller in the 2011-2012 season. Jordin Tootoo got a two-game suspension for this hit on Miller, despite not having been suspended since the 2006-07 season and despite Miller not suffering an injury on the play.
I've found that it can be frustrating to wade through examples and precedents when it comes to NHL suspensions. There's overall very little consistency in the way suspensions are dished out by the Hockey Ops department, so all Kadri can do is wait. It wouldn't surprise me if the NHL dinged him for a game or two because of his role in not one, but two suspendable plays. I didn't like the hit on Backstrom because you can tell Kadri really explodes through the check and doesn't make any effort to get out of the way. On top of that, Backstrom had to leave the game, in what's already been a very tough year for Backstrom physically, so you have to hope he's okay.
Kadri wasn't made available to reporters Wednesday night, but here's what Wild reporter Michael Russo had to say, including some comments from Randy Carlyle:
The one on Backstrom I think will be really scrutinized by the league (as all the Wild players said, it's the type of blow to the head the league wants to rid), especially if the NHL sees the hit on Granlund the way Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle saw it: “It’s beyond me the five-minute major. I just looked at it. He made initial contact with the shoulder and the kid had the head down. (Kadri) didn’t have his arms up and he ran into the player and Granlund snapped his head back. Obviously the referee’s saw it differently and obviously when it’s a five-minute match penalty it’ll be reviewed.”
The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger confirmed with the NHL's Mike Murphy that the league would take a look at both hits:
If at first you don't get the attention of the league's disciplinarians, well, just try, try again.
Trust us. The league will be reviewing Kadri's antics. So said NHL VP Mike Murphy.
"The (safety department) looks at everything ,,, so I'm sure it will be assessed," Murphy told the Sun via e-mail Wednesday night regarding the Backstrom incident.
“Naz is a very skilled player,” said Dion Phaneuf, “but he plays with an edge and he plays hard. I think that's a big thing that's unique about him is that he doesn't just have those very soft hands and playmaking ability, but he's a physical guy.”
Already short Tyler Bozak and David Bolland, a suspension to Kadri would further damage the Leafs down the middle.
That last sentence is really stating the obvious point, but oftentimes things are hidden in plain sight. Kadri, despite the ejection midway through the third period, took just as many draws as James van Riemsdyk did. Tyler Bozak, while skating, isn't available to return until the 21st and his actual recovery may take some time, but the Leafs could be stretched even thinner down the middle for the home-and-home against Buffalo Friday and Saturday.
I don't want to—for reasons stated above—throw out an opinion on how many games Kadri will be suspended, whether it be 0 or 10, but one thing I decided I'd do this season was respect the league's decisions unequivocally when it comes to supplemental discipline. It's less of a headache. Personally, I'd give him a couple of games for the Backstrom collision, especially since "but we're already short our top two centremen! You can't!" is probably the best defence the Leafs have. And if the NHL decides that the match penalty handed out to the Leafs in a real key situation in a close game is enough, well… I'm more than okay with that too.