Kalman: It’s a shame Bruins won’t get their shot at revenge on Kadri

Matt Kalman
April 14, 2019 - 1:12 am

The Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs took their truculence to new heights in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first round Saturday.

But after the Bruins evened the series 1-1 with a 4-1 win at TD Garden, there should’ve been one thing they both agreed on: Nazem Kadri should NOT be suspended for crosschecking Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk in the face with a little less than six minutes remaining in the game.

Before you bring out the pitchforks and torches and try to round me up along with the Maple Leafs center, hear me out:

Toronto obviously doesn’t want Kadri suspended because he’s a vital part of their team, one of their few true agitators and a guy they missed sorely for three games because of a suspension in last year’s first-round series that they lost in seven games vs. Boston.

The Bruins shouldn’t want him suspended because it’s time for Kadri to answer for his actions.

Kadri knew exactly what he did wrong after he nailed DeBrusk in retaliation for DeBrusk’s clean hit on Toronto’s Patrice Marleau seconds before. He knew he would have to answer for the hit, but then Zdeno Chara was the first Bruins player to arrive on the scene with DeBrusk down on the ice.

Realizing standing up for himself might lead to him meeting his maker before meeting the NHL Department of Player Safety, Kadri was careful to make it clear to Chara there would be no fisticuffs and Kadri turtled up so well he could’ve been mistaken for the majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

The officials then did Kadri a favor by sending him to an early shower with a 10-minute misconduct. The Maple Leafs organization then didn’t make Kadri available for comment. The NHL DOPS will probably keep Kadri from seeing the Bruins again until next fall because he has been offered an in-person hearing, which means they can suspend him for six games or more.

The Bruins toed the party line when it came to answering questions not just about the crosscheck to DeBrusk, but Kadri’s other nefarious actions. He decked DeBrusk and maybe even slew footed him late during Game 1. Kadri popped DeBrusk in the nose during a tie-up and tumble early in Game 2, and then refused to answer the challenge when DeBrusk wanted to settle the score mano y mano.

"Yeah, I think that’s up to the league to decide to be honest. Yeah, I’ve got no comment on that," DeBrusk said.

In the final minute of the second period, DeBrusk nearly crossed the line with a leg-on-leg hit on Kadri. If there were any doubts Kadri was exaggerating the force of the blow, he canceled them out by skating off while favoring his right leg and then returning to play the third period.

Since the dawn of time, or least since the dawn of Eddie Shore’s era in a Bruins sweater, Boston has played best when angry. That came out in their 44-hit performance against the Maple Leafs in response to their sometimes-listless Game 1 performance.

“Yeah, more controlled aggression, I’d say, then pissed off,” said Bruins forward Chris Wagner, whose line with Noel Acciari and Joakim Nordstrom got the start and set the tone with physicality right off the hop.

“Because if you get pissed off you might do something stupid, start running around, and we don’t want to do that. Just want to play smart, controlled … just play hard all over the ice.”

They probably never expected it’d be so easy to get the Maple Leafs to do something stupid, especially considering Kadri’s suspension history, and especially considering the core of this young Maple Leafs team is in its third postseason.

But every hit by the Bruins seemed to draw a weak physical response or a glance toward the referees for a call. It was like the Maple Leafs had been dropped into the postseason for the first time. It was reminiscent of the 2008 Bruins, who were mostly playoff neophytes that needed half a series to learn how to respond to playoff-caliber hits and avoid bickering with the referees against Montreal.

A year ago “something stupid” meant Marchand getting a taste of Maple Leafs forward, turned New York Islander forward, Leo Komarov. If only the stupidity of Game 2 had been on that level, the NHL DOPS would have less work to do and DeBrusk, who underwent several tests and looked dazed and confused in a postgame media scrum, might not have put his brain on the line.

It’s too bad the NHL has to send a message to the rest of the league and make an example of Kadri because the Bruins could use him out there as motivation. Having a Public Enemy No. 1 on the ice would make sure the Bruins don’t go back to sleep the way they were in Game 1. Putting Kadri back on the ice Monday would give the Bruins a chance for some real revenge.

Instead it looks like the Bruins are going to have to rally themselves, win one for Torey Krug (who may have been concussed) and DeBrusk (whose status will be updated Sunday).

The Bruins have to keep up their physical play and continue to follow Marchand’s lead by toeing the discipline line, and the only revenge they’ll be able to get on Kadri for a few months is a series victory.

 

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Related: Leafs' Nazem Kadri throws another dirty hit, will almost certainly be suspended again

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