Nazem Kadri has been suspended for three games for his third-period hit to the head on Tommy Wingels last night, sidelining the Leafs centerman for Game 2 in Boston and Games 3 and 4 in Toronto.
Here is the league’s explanation:
A huge blow, to say the least.
The Leafs were preparing for this eventuality today in practice, running the following lines:
Komarov – Matthews – Nylander
Hyman – Marleau – Marner
van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Brown
Johnsson – Plekanec – Kapanen
Patrick Marleau spent a handful games at center in early November in between James van Riemsdyk and Connor Brown. It’s not a coincidence Babcock made that move (instead of shifting William Nylander over) when the Leafs were faced with a tough road trip through Anaheim, LA and St. Louis. The thinking is much the same here as far as not Babcock having control over the matchups away from home and trusting the veteran Marleau over 200 feet and in any situation.
On the top line, the thinking appears to be that Leo Komarov provides a left-handed, defensively-astute option who can hopefully help settle things down in that matchup defensively and attempt to frustrate Brad Marchand if possible (not an easy task given he thrives on the gamesmanship).
The other consideration is matchups. If the best you can realistically hope for on a given night on the road in Boston is playing Marchand and Bergeron to a saw-off at 5v5, it’s important that the Leafs get their depth scoring going and win some of the secondary matchups. Hyman – Marleau – Marner/ JVR – Bozak – Brown / Johnsson – Plekanec – Kapanen sets the Leafs up reasonably well as far as offensive balance throughout the lineup — arguably better than Hyman – Matthews – Nylander / Komarov – Marleau – Marner would have.
The fact that the suspension is three games in length means that the Leafs won’t be able to get their desired matchup situation back on home ice for Games 3 and 4, which likely involved their shutdown C in Kadri taking the Bergeron assignment, thereby freeing up Matthews’ line some. If it wasn’t already, it’s now on Matthews to step up big time if the Leafs are going to fight their way back in this series.
Mike Babcock Addresses Line Changes, Missed Challenge, Costly L4 vs. L1 Mismatch
Highlights from today’s presser:
Babcock on the new lines:
What we tried to do is give ourselves good balance. We thought Hyman played real well last night. We thought Hyman could help those guys be a real good line. Leo has played in that spot. It looks to me that they’re matching Bergeron against them, so that gives him a good job and a net front presence. The other groups are the same, and Johnny has played.
Babcock on moving Marleau to the middle:
We just think he’s a big body who can play. We don’t like him there long term but in the short term, he’s done pretty well for us. I just think he’s a guy who is comfortable being in the playoffs being in the middle. He’s done it before. Shouldn’t be an issue.
Babcock on losing the Bergeron matchup in Game 1:
Their three guys were more competitive than ours. In the end, that’s why they had success.
Babcock on the team’s mentality coming off Game 1:
What we did is we just do what we usually do. You get prepared for the next opportunity. During the year, you lose games. That’s just reality. It’s how you respond. The biggest thing that happens in the playoffs, though, is that we need to win a game so that it’s a best-of-five. It’s just that simple. We like our team and we like our opportunity. We didn’t like how we played so we went through how we played and cleaned up some of the things we shouldn’t do to get ready for tomorrow.
Babcock on losing Kadri to suspension:
We lost guys all year long. Dig in and play.
Babcock on the fourth line giving up a goal to the Bergeron line off a d-zone draw matchup:
I did that on purpose and it ended up in the back of our net. That’s their job to win that draw, get it out, and get it in. They did that, but never got off the ice. You get paid to do certain things. That is your job. It wasn’t like I was avoiding that at all. I thought that was a real good situation for us. They’re supposed to be able to start in the d-zone and get us in the o-zone and get us off the ice. That is their job.
Babcock on the missed challenge opportunity on the 1-0 goal:
We didn’t have that replay. Then, when the puck was being dropped, we had the replay. That’s disappointing. That’s also on the coaching staff, not on the players. That’s on us. Obviously, it’s offside. That part is disappointing. It’s disappointing we don’t have the replays on time to make a decision. Usually, when you know it’s coming, you can delay it more. The three or four that our guys had, it wasn’t there, and then it was too late. Hindsight is a great thing though, isn’t it?