Nobody expected to see Nazem Kadri for the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But here he was in the spotlight again in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Kadri was injured in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against the Edmonton Oilers. He came up holding his hand after going hard into the boards. Kadri’s thumb required surgery and head coach Jared Bednar ruled him out for the rest of that series but not the playoffs. Many wondered how the Colorado Avalanche would survive without their biggest x-factor. The Avalanche were able to survive because of the depth of their team.
However, 18 days later after thumb surgery, Nazem Kadri was back in the lineup and scored the biggest goal of his career. Though it needed a review as nobody knew the puck entered the net, Kadri’s goal gave the Avalanche a 3-2 victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. With a 3-1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Avalanche are one win away from cementing their legacy.
Nazem Kadri Lifts Colorado To Emotional Game 4 Victory
There were signs Kadri was inching closer to returning to the lineup. He had been progressing nicely. But, the competitor in him was not going to miss the Stanley Cup Final. This is something Kadri had worked for his whole life. And considering his playoff history –most of it was bad because of suspensions — this year, he was making an impact on the ice.
“Oh man, a roller-coaster of emotions,” said Kadri, speaking to members of the media for the first time since Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. “Just thinking I was done and then having a sliver of hope (after surgery). Sitting here right now, it’s kind of surreal. I’m just excited to join the team again and be in the dressing room. This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life pretty much.”
It started slow for Kadri to be able to get to the point where he could shoot pucks. He started just skating with no stick. Then, he added the stick just to get a feel for it all. From there, Kadri was able to do some stickhandling drills with the puck, though he never quite took any shots. All of this was being done during the eight-day layoff between the Western Conference Final and the Stanley Cup Final.
Not to mention he was skating on game days or before practices by himself, still not going that hard. Kadri could taste the Stanley Cup and wanted to be a part of playing in the Final. But once Colorado lost Game 3, there were rumblings we could see Kadri back in the lineup (though the Avalanche did not need him, as they still had a 2-1 lead in the series). Colorado is a better team with him in the lineup than without him in the lineup.
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Many thought we would not see Kadri until Game 6 or 7 of the series, but there he was out with the team at morning skate prior to Game 4. He was in a regular burgundy sweater, not the non-contact jersey he had been sporting. He was taking line rushes with Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichuskin, not to mention Kadri was playing the bumper position on the second power-play unit.
Yet, Jared Bednar would not confirm Kadri’s availability.
“He’s getting better every day,” Bednar said after the morning skate, when asked if Kadri would play. “If he can do all the functions that it takes to play a hockey game and is feeling comfortable with it, he’s a guy we’ll put back in. He’s been skating, legs feel good. It’s just about managing, I guess, the pain he’s dealing with.”
As he has done all series with player availabilities, Bednar kept them close to the chest. However, when Kadri was spotted arriving early to the arena — something players do when they are playing in the game — the wheels started to turn. And there he was, out there during pre-game warmups testing his injured hand. Once warmups were over and the lineups were announced, Nazem Kadri’s name was listed as IN.
Kadri Continues To Show Resiliency And Heart
You could see the Colorado Avalanche players got a boost with Kadri in the lineup. Though things did not start out well for the Avalanche going down 1-0 early, Kadri’s play was solid considering the circumstances. He could not take faceoffs, but his jump was there to get to loose pucks and had a couple of scoring chances early.
As the game progressed, Kadri just got better and better until the moment where he jumped on the ice in overtime to score the winner before his teammates mobbed in celebration.
“Gusty performance, you know? Put in a lot of work to make sure that he could not only come back and play, but he could come back and perform to the best of his ability with the injury he had,” said Bednar of Kadri’s performance in Game 4. “It’s not easy to do, turning around an injury like that. It just shows you how dedicated he was.”
But he was not the only one post-game echoing those sentiments.
“He’s a true warrior,” Devon Toews said post-game of Kadri. “He is such a key player for us. For him to play a good role for us tonight to get that goal is huge.”
“You know he wasn’t going to go down easy. It’s an inspiration to everybody else to see a teammate like that try to come back and fight every day to try to get better and finally he’s back in the lineup,” said Landeskog. “No doubt it was exciting for us and gave us a different look. You can’t make that stuff up. Big in overtime and it’s great to see.”
Just consider this about Kadri for a minute: he only could shoot a wrist shot (hence why he was at the bumper position on the power play). A snapshot or slap shot would hurt to punch, so to play with one weapon in your arsenal is impressive. And yet, he was still effective out there for the Avalanche.
The Colorado Avalanche are now one win away from the Stanley Cup as Nazem Kadri wrote a storybook ending in Game 4.
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