We are in the midst of the first round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs. Some teams have already been eliminated, and some teams are still fighting for their playoff lives. Regardless, this is what we’ve been waiting for.
This week’s takes will focus on a few of the most notable postseason storylines, including a noteworthy suspension, a serious injury, and an unsurprising playoff standout.
1. Kadri Suspended Eight Games, Will Appeal
Last week, the Colorado Avalanche swept the St. Louis Blues. The most notable storyline of the series was Nazem Kadri’s hit on St. Louis defensemen Justin Faulk. Kadri injured Faulk on a check to the head in Game 2 of the series. The NHL suspended Kadri for eight games as punishment and Kadri will appeal the suspension. Here is the hit.
Nazem Kadri receives a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of Justin Faulk. pic.twitter.com/RVZkVsqNMz
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 20, 2021
I don’t know the precedent for the number of games Kadri should be suspended for, however, I do think this hit deserves a suspension. Kadri did not leave his feet, nor was the hit egregiously late. The suspension is more outcome-based than intention-based. Kadri probably wasn’t intending to make contact with only Faulk’s head and to injure him, but that’s what happened. The result was nasty.
Kadri should be suspended as hits to the head are outlawed for obvious reasons. Kadri is also a repeat offender. This is his third playoff suspension. I wish the NHL would outline the number of games players will be suspended for based on their actions. That would settle a ton of debate. Regardless, the Avalanche will have to play without Kadri, for at least one, if not two full playoff series. For a team that’s aiming to win a Stanley Cup, this doesn’t help their chances.
2. Blashill Extended in Detroit
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The Detroit Red Wings have extended the contract of head coach Jeff Blashill. Blashill has been the Wings’ coach for six seasons. With Blashill at the helm, the Wings have gone 172-221-62, having missed the playoffs in five straight seasons, losing to Tampa Bay in the first round during the 2015-16 season.
I’m indifferent on the decision to extend him. There are both positives and negatives.
The positives to extending Blashill’s contract are continuity and development. Considering the Red Wings are rebuilding and are not worried about winning many games, continuity behind the bench is important. There is no reason to jump ship from Blashill for someone else if you’re not trying to win. Also, Blashill has great experience developing players, having spent considerable time coaching in college and the AHL. The Red Wings are banking on their young players to develop, and Blashill should help with that.
But what is the risk of trying to find a new coach to push the rebuild along? Blashill isn’t terrible, but this could be a great time to find someone better. The Red Wings have nothing to lose. I would expect the Red Wings’ front office to look for a new coach soon if Blashill can’t win games with better players. Why not have the coach you believe can right the ship in place sooner rather than later?
This is a low-risk move for the Red Wings. One or two more years to evaluable Blashill and the young players will no doubt help the organization.
3. Washington and Boston Hit Hard
The Capitals might have washed out of the playoffs, losing to the Bruins 4-1, it wasn’t without a few notable highlights. The Capitals did everything they could to physically dominate the Bruins but to no avail. Tom Wilson was the main perpetrator; shocking I know. Wilson laid down this hit on Curtis Lazar in Game 2 of the series, knocking him into the bench.
Tom Wilson with the charge of the century, lol pic.twitter.com/B1ROj9sZP0
— Nick Alberga (@thegoldenmuzzy) May 17, 2021
You don’t see very many of these hits where a massive brawl doesn’t break out and the player isn’t hurt. That’s why I loved it. The big hits didn’t end there. David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand decided to level the boom on Alex Ovechkin in Game 4 with these hits.
Ovechkin gets dumped by Pastrnak and Marchand pic.twitter.com/0dd3Ox0LP4
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 22, 2021
Ovechkin didn’t let those hits slide. He took a run at Marchand later in the game. Something I know most hockey fans would love to have a chance to do.
Alex Ovechkin with a big hit on Brad Marchand. pic.twitter.com/O88HAbHcGz
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 22, 2021
Sadly for Washington, all of it was for naught, as they lost the series.
Those were my favorite highlights from the first round of the playoffs. Good, clean hits really get my energy going.
4. Tavares Out After Nasty Collision
Not all of the hits we saw last week were entertaining. Sadly, Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares was the victim of a nasty hit during Game 1 of the Leafs’ series against the Montreal Canadiens. You can see the hit below.
the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares has been discharged from the hospital after getting hit, and taking a knee to the head in the teams recent playoff game. Tavares will be out “indefinitely” says the team. pic.twitter.com/3UfgWQTcJv
— United States News Block (@USNewsBlock) May 21, 2021
Tavares takes a crushing hit to the back from Ben Chiarot. Just after he hits the ice, Corey Perry’s knee hits him right in the head. The hit from Perry was clearly an accident, but Tavares was hurt. He exited the game on a stretcher and was taken to the hospital.
Tavares suffered a knee injury and a concussion from the hit. He will be unable to play for at least two weeks due to his injuries. Thankfully, there was no structural damage to his head, neck, or spine.
This was one of the scarier hits I’ve seen in a while. I hope Tavares is okay and is able to return to play this season without concussion symptoms. Concussions are no joke. It might even be a good thing Tavares’ knee injury will prevent him from playing for two weeks. It will ensure he doesn’t rush back from a nasty head injury.
5. The Return of Marc-Andre Fleury
During last year’s playoffs, I wrote about Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent tweeting a Photoshopped image of Fleury getting stabbed in the back with a sword because Fleury was no longer the Golden Knights’ number one goaltender. This year, Fleury has started off the postseason on fire.
As of this morning, Fleury is 3-2 with a 1.50 GAA, 0.946 sv%, and one shutout this postseason. Fleury only played four games last postseason.
Fleury has had the most interesting postseason career I’ve ever seen. He played in every game during the Penguins’ Stanley Cup runs in 2008 and 2009. He only played in two games during the 2016 Stanley Cup run, as he was unable to unseat Matt Murray. The next year, Fleury was instrumental in the Penguins’ postseason success, playing in 15 games, but didn’t appear once in the Cup Finals. Then he helped Vegas to the Stanly Cup Final in the 2018 postseason.
I would love to see Fleury get one more ring as the bona fide starter. It would cement his place as one of the best goalies of all time and would ensure he enters the Hall of Fame. ■