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Maple Leafs’ Kadri suspended for rest of Round 1

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The Toronto Maple Leafs will not have Nazem Kadri for the remainder of their Round 1 series against the Boston Bruins.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Monday evening, less than an hour before puck drop of Game 3 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream), that Kadri has been suspended for the remainder of the series for a cross-checking incident that took place late in Game 2 of the series.

That means Kadri’s suspension will be a minimum of three games and a maximum of five games.

Here is the NHL’s entire video, the explanation, and the play itself.

This is the second year in a row Kadri has been suspended in a postseason series between the two teams after earning a three-game banishment a year ago for boarding Tommy Wingels.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In this incident, Kadri was ejected for cross-checking Boston’s Jake DeBrusk in the head immediately after DeBrusk had hit Patrick Marleau into the turnbuckle. It was clearly a retaliation from that hit. Kadri and DeBrusk were also involved in an incident earlier in the game when Kadri had to briefly leave the game following an open-ice collision.

As the NHL states in its suspension video: “This is not a hockey play. Instead, this is a player retaliating against an opponent by using his stick as a weapon to make forceful and direct head contact.”

Also: “While we understand Kadri took offense to DeBrusk’s hit against Marleau, players are simply not permitted to flagrantly violate league playing rules because they feel that retribution is justified.”

Kadri’s disciplinary history, including four suspensions and a fine, certainly played into the severity of the punishment.

MORE BRUINS-MAPLE LEAFS:
If Kadri cant change, Maple Leafs should move on
• 
Krug, DeBrusk good to go for Bruins in Game 3
• 
The Wraparound: Maple Leafs need to play harder in Game 3

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

If Kadri can’t change, Maple Leafs should move on

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs present a very fine line between justified criticism of a player or team, and diving head-first into hot-takery and irrational overreactions. Sometimes the former is necessary, and because of that it can be really easy to jump over the line and become a victim of the latter based on a relatively small sample size of games.

After all, you do not want to be the person calling for the trade of a superstar because they happened to hit a cold funk for three games in April or made one bad mistake at the worst possible time.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri is making it very difficult to walk that line.

He is an incredibly valuable player to the Maple Leafs.

He has emerged as an outstanding shutdown center that also has the 30-goal ability, and is also signed for three more years after this one at a team-friendly rate of just $4.5 million per season.

Given his all-around play he is an absolute steal under the salary cap on a team that needs every possible steal it can get given its contract situation at the top of the roster.

That is the good that he provides, and why he should, in theory, unquestionably be a part of the team’s future.

The problem is that he has to actually be on the ice for any of that to matter, and he continues to take himself out of the lineup because of the often times dangerous and reckless style of game that he plays.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

It showed itself again in Game 2 against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night when he was ejected for cross-checking Jake DeBrusk in the side of the head, earning himself an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety.

That means he is almost certainly looking at a hefty suspension that could sideline him for the remainder of Round 1, and perhaps beyond should the Maple Leafs advance.

If they do not advance, his absence might be a big reason why.

Again.

If Saturday’s incident was a one-time, isolated thing it would be a lot easier to accept it, criticize him for a selfish, dumb play, and deal with whatever consequences that might come from it. It would stink, it would be worthy of criticism, but you move on and bring him back next season without thinking twice about it.

But this is not an isolated incident.

Not only does Kadri have an extensive track record of incidents that have risen to the level of supplemental discipline, resulting in several suspensions, but this is the second year in a row he has taken himself out of a playoff series for an extended period of time due to his own recklessness and selfishness. He was suspended for three games during the Maple Leafs’ matchup against the Bruins a year ago for boarding Tommy Wingels, and while his absence may not have been the only reason, they lost two of those three games.

Because of that suspension, and because of his entire history, he has now at risk of missing a significant number with his upcoming suspension.

That can not happen, not only because it is a horrible way to play the game, but also because the Maple Leafs need him.

Emotions were understandably high in Game 2, especially with the way the game was played, and Kadri and DeBrusk were at the center of a lot of it.

Not only was Kadri briefly knocked out of the game due to a controversial open-ice hit by DeBrusk, but DeBrusk hit Patrick Marleau into the turnbuckle just prior to the cross-check. But none of that is an excuse for Kadri to lose his composure the way he did and react in that way. Now the rest of his teammates are going to be hurt by it, pay the price, and have to deal with the consequences.

All of that puts a ton of pressure on Kadri and the Maple Leafs whenever he does return to the lineup, whether it is this postseason or next season.

He has to change the way he plays. He has to stop crossing the line and being as reckless as he tends to be.

Players like Kadri are so frustrating because they shouldn’t have to resort to this stuff to make a name for themselves in the NHL and have a meaningful spot on a contending roster. His hockey talents are good enough on their own that he shouldn’t have to be a pest or play dirty to make an impact.

Especially since those hockey talents make him so valuable that the Maple Leafs can not afford to lose him when he inevitably does resort to those shenanigans that get him removed from the lineup.

At some point the Maple Leafs have to ask themselves at what point he is no longer worth the hassle, because if you can’t count on him to stay out of trouble at the biggest time of the year, what good is everything else that he offers?

Maybe they have already reached that point. If they haven’t, he shouldn’t have too many chances remaining to prove he can change.

MORE BRUINS-MAPLE LEAFS:
Krug, DeBrusk good to go for Bruins in Game 3
Kadri could face big suspension 
The Wraparound: Maple Leafs need to play harder in Game 3

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Wraparound: Leafs need to ‘just play harder’ in Game 3

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

As if a series against the Boston Bruins wasn’t difficult enough, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face an additional test now that they’ll likely be without Nazem Kadri in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series. (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream)

Kadri will have an in-person hearing today for his cross-check to the head of Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk. Anytime the Department of Player Safety offers you an in-person hearing, you’re looking at a longer suspension. So without Kadri at his disposal, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock will likely move Patrick Marleau or William Nylander to center.

One of the keys to Toronto’s success is the production they get from their centers. Kadri found a way to accumulate two points in two games in this series, but Auston Matthews is still searching for his first point. The pressure has been on him already, but without Kadri he’ll need to take his game to another level as soon as Game 3.

In Game 1, he was on the ice for 15 shot attempts for and 19 against (CF% of 44.12). In Game 2, the 21-year-old was on the ice 19 shot attempts for and 27 against (41.3 percent). One area in which he improved from Game 1 to 2 was in the scoring chances department. In the first game, his team didn’t have a high-danger scoring chance with him on the ice and they gave up four. On Saturday night, Matthews was on the ice for five high-danger scoring chances for and three against. Improvement (all stats via Natural Stat Trick)

One thing the Leafs have going for them, is that they’re going back home, which means Babcock will have last change. Can he get Matthews easier matchups in the next two games of series?

And this isn’t just on Matthews’ shoulders. The Leafs need a better effort from top to bottom if they’re going to take a lead in this series after Game 3.

“We need to get into them instead of letting them get into us,” Babcock said, per the Toronto Sun. “Getting off to that start and establishing your game first and just playing harder.

“I thought they played harder than we did (in Game 2), I thought we played harder than them the (game) before. The series is now a best of five, it’s in our building, we need to establish our game first (in Game 3).”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 3: Capitals at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (Capitals lead 2-0): Hurricanes fans will get their first live taste of playoff hockey in a long time. If their team has any shot of coming back in this series, they’ll have to find a way to get the job done on home ice tonight. Falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series against the defending Stanley Cup Champions is never a good idea, so they have to come out ready to go from the start. (CNBC, Live stream)

Game 3: Predators at Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET (series tied 1-1): The Stars found a way to win Game 1 on the road and they managed to force overtime in Game 2. You’d have to think that they’re fairly confident now that the series is heading back to Dallas tonight. The big question mark in this series is the Predators’ power play. Can they get it going before it’s too late? (NBCSN, Live stream)

Game 3: Flames at Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET (series tied 1-1): Even though the Avs failed to find the back of the net in Game 1, they’re still heading home all tied up in this best-of-seven series thanks to an OT goal by Nathan MacKinnon. Colorado isn’t as deep as Calgary, but they have enough high-end talent to make this interesting. (CNBC, Live stream)

NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh, Keith Jones and Keith Yandle, begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Paul Burmeister, Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter will anchor CNBC’s studio coverage throughout the Capitals-Hurricanes and Flames-Avalanche games.

Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle will join NBC Sports’ Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage as a guest studio analyst today, April 15, and Tuesday, April 16. A 13-year NHL veteran, Yandle played parts of nine seasons with the Coyotes organization, including the first seven games of his NHL career during the 2006-07 season, when he skated alongside former Coyote and current NHL on NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick. Yandle was Florida’s representative at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, and recently completed his third season as a member of the Panthers where he currently serves as an alternate captain.

TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE: 
Game 4: Lightning at Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Game 4: Penguins at Islanders, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 4: Jets at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Game 4: Sharks at Golden Knights, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

PHT’s 2019 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Capitals vs Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

Predators vs. Stars
Blues vs. Jets
Flames vs. Avalanche
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Power Rankings: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup
• 
Roundtable: Goaltending issues, challenging the Lightning
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Kadri could face big suspension, offered in-person hearing

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UPDATE:

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Nazem Kadri‘s been offered an in-person hearing for his ugly hit on Jake DeBrusk, making people wonder if we’ve seen Kadri for the last time during this Round 1 series.

An in-person hearing opens up the option for Kadri to be suspended for 5+ games, not that it would guarantee that would happen. If it were five-or-more, that would mean that Kadri could return no sooner than Round 2, if the Toronto Maple Leafs managed to get by the Boston Bruins.

Losing Kadri, a very valuable center (when he’s not losing his cool) would greatly reduce Toronto’s chances of avenging last year’s Round 1 loss to Boston. No doubt about it, this is unlikely history potentially repeating itself, as Kadri received a three-game suspension for going after Tommy Wingels during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

You can watch that hit in the video above this post’s headline. Kadri was likely riled up in part by an earlier hit by DeBrusk, who delivered a check on Patrick Marleau before Kadri’s cross-check to the head.

After the Bruins’ 4-1 win to tie the series at 1-1, NBC’s Keith Jones called for a 10-game suspension.

As far as DeBrusk’s knee-to-knee goes, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said he believed it was clean.

This exchange was the most explosive moment from Game 2, but things really started to get out of hand during the second period. Torey Krug and Connor Clifton also left the contest, while Jake Muzzin was able to return to action despite being bloodied, so we’ll see if Kadri’s not the only one who will miss some time. Just, in Kadri’s case, it would be because of a suspension.

Maple Leafs – Bruins Game 3 from Scotiabank Arena takes place Monday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN (Live stream)

More: Series preview

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

‘Good luck!’ Lightning carry burden of Presidents’ Trophy

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Jon Cooper and Todd Reirden were coaching at the All-Star Game in January when the topic of winning the Presidents’ Trophy came up.

With Cooper’s Tampa Bay Lightning cruising toward winning it as the NHL’s best team, he asked the Washington coach how to handle it. Reirden was less than helpful.

”I said: ‘Good luck! I don’t know what you’re talking about,”’ Reirden recalled with a grin.

Finishing at the top of the league comes with expectations, but only two of 13 Presidents’ Trophy winners in the salary cap era have gone on to win the Stanley Cup and none since 2013. If this is the burden to bear for Tampa Bay, the Lightning seem OK with it.

”Nobody in there is sitting there thinking now we’ve got a path to the Stanley Cup finals,” Cooper said. ”As a matter of fact, actually the odds are probably grossly against us just in the sense there’s going to be 15 other teams. Any time you go in somewhere and say, ‘OK, we’re going to pick this team’ and somebody’s got the field, usually the field is the teams to take.”

Taking the field this time means betting against a team that was 21 points clear of anyone else in the league, has the top scorer and likely MVP in Nikita Kucherov, a Vezina Trophy candidate in goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and looks built for this moment. Of course, so did the Nashville Predators last year.

When the Predators clinched the Presidents’ Trophy against the Capitals, who won it the previous two years, winger Filip Forsberg said: ”We’ve seen especially here that the trophy doesn’t mean that much going forward.”

It didn’t, and Nashville lost in the second round to Winnipeg in seven games.

The Capitals have won the Presidents’ Trophy three times in the Alex Ovechkin era – under coach Bruce Boudreau in 2010 and Barry Trotz in 2016 and 2017 (with Reirden as his top assistant) – and lost in the first or second round each time.

”Obviously it comes with a little bit of pressure,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. ”You are the best team in the regular season and you obviously have more work to do I think than just regular season.”

Boudreau, now with Minnesota, said the pressure stems from constant questions players face because ”they can’t away from it” more than a feeling of internal superiority. But nine years after getting beaten by red-hot goaltender Jaroslav Halak and Montreal in the first round, Boudreau vividly remembers a Game 6 feeling of, ”Oh my God, if we lose this game!”

They did. Tampa Bay defenseman Braydon Coburn remembers it clearly because it helped pave the way for his run to the Cup Final with Philadelphia. He and his Lightning teammates are keenly aware of other teams’ missteps in the same spot they find themselves in now.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

”You look to the past,” Coburn said. ”You try to take them as lessons. I don’t think you try to psych yourself out in any sort of way. But I think you look back to that Washington series against Montreal, I remember it very well. It was Halak. He played out of his mind. That’s the thing about playoffs is you never know what’s going to happen.”

What should happen based on 1,271 regular season games is Steven Stamkos raising the Stanley Cup over his head in June. But that was also the case for the San Jose Sharks in 2009 with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in their primes, and they, too, lost in the first round.

”It’s one of those things you can’t let down your guard,” said Marleau, now with Toronto. ”You can’t feel comfortable for a second. It’s a brand new season. Anything can happen. There’s bounces, inches. It’s a game of inches. Just not to take your foot off the gas. If anything, it’s the time to really bear down.”

The Lightning clinched the NHL’s best record with several games left in the season, which takes away some of urgency on the ice – in a bad way.

”We weren’t playing playoff hockey – we were playing high-end, regular-season hockey, which is a big difference,” said Minnesota’s Eric Fehr, who was on that Capitals team in 2010. ”It’s just the intensity of taking the puck to the net and not playing as much on the perimeter and not trying to make fancy plays. You see the high-end teams in the regular season, they’re making fancy plays, they’re scoring 3-on-2 goals. You get to the playoffs and it’s point shots, tips and battles in front of the net. That’s the difference is you have to be playing that style of game come playoff time.”

Tampa Bay was the highest-scoring team in the league, so it’s an adjustment to playoff-style hockey but something the group is used to after reaching the Eastern Conference finals last year. Forward Adam Erne said the ”sour taste” from a seven-game loss to Washington is a motivation, and more experienced teammates are trying to impart some knowledge about what to do next.

”Just keep a present mind frame,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with the New York Rangers in 2015. ”That’ been the best thing with this group all year is we’ve just focused on each day at a time and not look at big picture and what’s going on around us, what’s going on with other teams.”

All well and good, but previous top teams have done the same and not been able to live up to the billing. Carolina captain Justin Williams played on the 2016 and 2017 Capitals Presidents’ Trophy winning teams and acknowledged maybe it played a role in players gripping their sticks a little too tightly in the playoffs.

”It’s really hard to get in and there’s really no clear favorites once you get in,” Williams said. ”But playing the favorite is a little bit different with the expectations for you to win.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports