Colorado Avalanche Forward Nazem Kadri: MVP of Round 1

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 4: Nazem Kadri #91 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to action against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on December 4, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Avalanche defeated the Maple Leafs 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 4: Nazem Kadri #91 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to action against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on December 4, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Avalanche defeated the Maple Leafs 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

As the Colorado Avalanche play the Arizona Coyotes in Game 5 of Round 1, they have the chance to advance. Nazem Kadri is a large part of the reason.

The Colorado Avalanche will “host” the Arizona Coyotes this afternoon for Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs. Colorado leads the series 3-1. So, of course, they have the chance to be the second team, after the Vegas Golden Knights, to officially advance to the second round.

Ok, technically both Tampa Bay and Boston can win their respective series before Colorado’s Game 5 finishes, but that’s beside the point. Colorado can advance to Round 2 by the end of the day.

You know who cannot advance to Round 2 today or any day this season? The Toronto Maple Leafs. They lost 3-2 in the best-of-five qualifying series. One of their former players, though, is riding the Colorado Avalanche train.

That man is, of course, the one we got from those Leafs, Nazem Kadri. And his playoff success is noteworthy because of his history in Toronto. For the last two seasons in a row, Kadri’s playoffs were truncated because of penalties that ended up in suspensions. And Leafs fans, if not also Leafs management, at least partially blame Kadri for the Leafs’ failure to advance either season.

Ironically — or justly — Kadri is not just playing well with Colorado. He’s been the team’s most impactful player, which is saying a lot for Nathan MacKinnon‘s team. No one’s begrudging Kadri that honor, though, because it’s hard to argue with his four game-winning goals. Granted, that tally includes the round robin games — which I don’t agree with — but he still has two in the Arizona series.

Yes, two-thirds of Colorado’s game-winning goals have come from Kadri in Round 1.

In fact, Kadri has put up some amazing statistics in the playoffs. In the full seven games, which includes the three round robin contests, he has 4 goals and 5 assists for 9 points. And zero penalty minutes. Over the years with Toronto, he played 19 games and recorded 3 goals and 7 assists for 10 points. And, of course, he amassed those 56 penalty minutes plus suspensions.

More from Mile High Sticking

Even if you only look at the actual games that count, Kadri has 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points in 4 games. Those are still impressive stats, and still a lot better than what he put up in Toronto on a per-game basis.

It seems Colorado and the Avalanche suit Kadri better than Toronto and the Maple Leafs. That’s also a little weird considering Kadri is from Toronto and grew up loving the Leafs. (You just have to as Matt Duchene how it works out playing for your boyhood team, though.)

Colorado is a much more casual atmosphere to begin with. It’s also very relaxed when you’re talking hockey — it’s not the big sport in town. Toronto, on the other hand, is the hockey capital of the world and comes with all the pressure associated with that title.

Kadri comes across as an intense man, but it would appear the casual atmosphere has allowed him to relax enough into his game. Make no mistake, though — Kadri himself is not relaxed about his situation. He described himself as having a chip on his shoulder about proving what he has to offer.

Oh, I imagine the Leafs are all too cognizant. Too late, though. As defenseman Ian Cole put it when a cheeky Leafs fan asked if they could have Nazem back: There’s no givesies-backsies.

Next. Kadri Has Become a Difference-Maker. dark

The Colorado Avalanche got just what they needed when they traded for Nazem Kadri. They got their second-line center. They also got a player with grit and heart. And something to prove. You can’t ask for more than that.