After two serious incidents in consecutive playoff series against the Boston Bruins, the NHL's Department of Player Safety has decided it doesn't want Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri facing the Bruins again this postseason.
The NHL suspended Kadri for the remainder of the first-round series between Toronto and Boston after his cross-check to the face of Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in Game 2 on Saturday. That means a maximum five-game ban for Kadri. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal was Monday night, with the Leafs beating the Bruins 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead.
Kadri was suspended three games in the 2018 first-round playoff series between the clubs for charging and delivering a blow to the head of Boston forward Tommy Wingels. The NHL cited a similar cross-checking incident involving Kadri and the Detroit Red Wings' Luke Glendening in 2016 that also earned the Leafs center a suspension.
The latest incident occurred at 14:01 of the third period Saturday. DeBrusk delivered a hard hit on Toronto's Patrick Marleau, crushing him against the stanchion at the players' bench. As DeBrusk stood near the boards, Kadri skated over to avenge his teammate -- and perhaps gain a measure of revenge for himself for a questionable DeBrusk hit earlier in the game -- and cross-checked DeBrusk high with his stick, knocking him to the ice.
Kadri was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for cross-checking. DeBrusk didn't return to the game but was due to play in Game 3 for the Bruins.
"This was not a hockey play. Instead, it's a player retaliating against his opponent, using his stick as a weapon for forceful and direct head contact," the Department of Player Safety said in a release.
Kadri has the right to appeal through the NHL Players' Association to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. However, since the suspension is for fewer than six games, he is ineligible to eventually take his case to a neutral arbitrator in an effort to get it reduced.
Kadri had 16 goals and 28 assists in 73 games for the Leafs this season, following consecutive seasons of 32 goals. He plays a valuable third-line role for Toronto.
"Instinctively, Nas wears his emotions on his sleeve and cares about the group in this room. You can see where the emotions got to him, sticking up for a teammate. It's obvious the result wasn't what he intended," Toronto center John Tavares said. "Nas is a big part of our team. He brings so many elements that are key. It's obviously not ideal at playoff time, but with the intensity of these games, anything can happen."
As this is his fifth suspension in his 561-game NHL career, Kadri is still having difficulty controlling his impulses while playing on the edge.
"I think the edge for anybody is a little different. But anytime you put yourself in a situation where someone else gets to decide your future? Probably not a good thing," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.