EDMONTON, ALBERTA – I hate injuries in sports, always have. Man, haven’t we all just bargained with God so many times over them too? “Please, please, Lord, please don’t let (X-Y-Z player from your team) be out long. Please, give us some good news. Please, spare him.” I’m sure that’s what a lot of Colorado Avalanche fans were doing tonight, after Nazem Kadri left the ice in the first period after taking a cross-check from behind by Evander Kane into the boards.
But the Sports Injury Gods, I’ve come to believe, don’t really care about your stinkin’ prayers. And, if you’re praying to God about a player injury, well, He probably has his hands full with too many other things right now. Any prayers that Kadri would escape serious injury appear to have gone unanswered. I remember distinctly as a little kid praying to God that Red Sox catcher and boyhood idol Carlton Fisk wouldn’t be out long after being run over in Cleveland in 1974 by Leron Lee at home plate. Fisk would be out until the following season with a torn-up knee.
Kadri, the Avs’ super-important second-line centerman, in the midst of a career season, will be lost indefinitely to the injury suffered here tonight.
I think it was John Updike who wrote (and I’m not checking it on Google, about Ted Williams’ final at-bat) that “Gods don’t answer letters.” Right.
Colorado Avalanche Win, But…
So, Kadri’s injury took all the fun out of that win tonight for the Avs. Well, maybe not all. The fact is, this team is only five wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for the third time in team history – but the last time was 21 years ago. This team doesn’t need a fully healthy team, probably, to win this thing. If the Avs play the Tampa Bay Lightning, they’ve got some injuries too, including to Brayden Point. If they play the New York Rangers (wait, what, it could be the Rangers as the opponent?), they’ve got some health issues too. Besides, the Avs are a better team than the Rangers with or without Nazem Kadri.
But here’s the deal: it’s going to get harder to win it all without Nazem Kadri. He is a very important player for the Colorado Avalanche. We all know this. But the fact remains: the Avs just have to beat the Oilers one more time in the next four games, a veritable fait accompli. Then, just one more series victory against an Eastern Conference opponent – one of whom, if it’s the Lightning, will have to go six or seven games to advance and the other would be a Cinderella opponent that, while a good team, doesn’t stack up with the Avs.
Who should replace Kadri as the second-line center? I think it should be Mikko Rantanen. Let him play in the meantime at 2C, move the hugely underrated Artturi Lehkonen up to first-line right wing and just go with Landeskog-MacKinnon-Lehkonen, and Nichushkin-Rantanen-Newhook as a second line. I would not move J.T. Compher up to 2C, because I think he’s just better suited to a bottom-six role for now still.
About the Kane hit: Don’t cancel your subscriptions here, please, but: I don’t think it was as dirty as some here might think. I don’t think Kane fully extended his arms on the hit, and I don’t think he followed through all that much. I think Kadri lost his balance on the hit and went into the boards in an awkward way. Yes, I do think it was a penalty, and, yes, I think it is worth a short suspension. But I think this was more like a 6 or 7 on the “egregious penalty that should outrage us all” meter.
I will bet that Kane gets one game, and that’s it. Because, for one thing, we all know the Avs don’t get many favorable rulings from the league office. Second, this was Kadri it happened to – one of the league’s favored whipping boys.
Kane is who he is: A talented player who sometimes plays over the line. I guarantee you he doesn’t care what any of you think about him, either.
We’re going to see the Avs’ depth pushed to the very limit here. Well, not the very limit, because they still have some really fine hockey players still in the lineup. But, Kadri will be a big loss. Let’s hope for a quick return.
But I wouldn’t pray too hard about it.
THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I think this remains Pavel Francouz’s net to lose right now. Darcy Kuemper did not suit up for a second straight game. He’s with the team, though, and did skate today after the regulars left. So, it seems like he’s not far off from being activated again. But, I think he’s lost his starting job until Frankie falters, should it happen.
- What a great, great, great pickup Artturi Lehkonen was by Joe Sakic, at the deadline. Wow, is he a great defensive player. I absolutely predict a Frank J. Selke Trophy in his future.
- The Colorado Avalanche have been really good at grinding out these kinds of wins tonight. The overpassed at times and the power play still can make you want to pull your hair out at times. But the Avs just kept skating and coming at the Oilers, even after getting down an early goal. They didn’t let Edmonton get that second goal, which would have blown the roof right off this place. They just kind of gradually wore the Oilers out. How tired did McDavid and Draisaitl look by the end of the game?
- Very tired.
- Tyson Barrie? Have we noticed him once in this series? I haven’t.
- The Oilers did some whining after the game about an alleged slew foot by Nathan MacKinnon on Draisaitl. To paraphrase Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft, when asked about the Kane hit on Kadri: I didn’t see it.
- If the goal is to have Kadri possibly come back for the Stanley Cup Finals, the best thing for that would be for the Lightning-Rangers series to go six or seven games.
- I thought Jack Johnson was real good in the limited time he was on the ice.
- Cale Makar? Sublime. Great defensive game, great puck decisions in his own end. He played nearly 30 minutes. What a player.
- Josh Manson took a hard hit into the boards too and left the game briefly. But he came back. He’s a huge player for the Avs right now.
- Devon Toews was real good tonight too. Such a steady influence on the team.
- A planes, trains and automobiles kind of day getting here today. Some highlights: Heavy turbulence over Calgary, a long bus ride from Calgary to Edmonton, zero leg room on that bus, but good wifi and free snacks and sodas too. Couldn’t get into my Airbnb for about 30 minutes. Picture me standing by the door fruitlessly entering a door code that wouldn’t work. Turns out I had the last two digits of the code transposed on my phone.
- Thanks for your Tip Jar donations that made this trip for me and Kelsey more affordable.
- If the Avs play the Rangers and I start having to look up New York City hotel prices?
- Then, please pray for me.
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