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Kadri, Gardiner two 22-year-olds in contrast

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. All opinions expressed by Mike Ulmer are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Toronto Maple Leafs or its Hockey Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Maple Leafs and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NHL accredited member of the media.
A lack of success in the face-off circle hasn't helped Nazem Kadri. He is 10-17 in the circle in the playoffs.

A lack of success in the face-off circle hasn’t helped Nazem Kadri. He is 10-17 in the circle in the playoffs.

More and just as much.

That’s what the Maple Leafs need from a pair of 22-year-olds going into Friday’s Game 5 in Boston.

In the more category: center Nazem Kadri.

Kadri has just an assist, albeit a sweet one to Phil Kessel in Game 2,  to show for his work in the series.

He has had dangerous periods –he stood out in the Game 4 overtime – but Kadri was nearly a point a game-performer during the regular season (18 goals 26 assists for 44 points in 48 regular season games) and he hasn’t come near to matching that production.

That said this kind of blog is an easy write. Here’s how it works.

  1. Just scan down the scoring totals.
  2. See who hasn’t been statistically dominant.
  3. If his team is winning, write about how he is doing the little things that go into victory.
  4. If his team is losing, write about how he has to step it up.

Simple really.

But it’s not as if Kadri has been swimming in ice time. He only played 12 minutes in Game 4, half as much as did Mikhail Grabovski and his rotating cast of wingers included Phil Kessel, Clarke MacArthur and Matt Frattin. He had 2:33 of power play time in Game 4 and even less, 1:54 in Game 3. That’s pretty thin gruel.

It’s the age-old syndrome. Coaches go with who they think is going well. Play better, the coach will say, and you will pay more.

Clearly, Kadri hasn’t won Randy Carlyle’s affection so far and there are explanations for this.

The Nazem Kadri who Don Cherry kissed on air has not been in evidence. In the 16 games since his hat trick against Ottawa March 13, Kadri has one goal, six points and stands -6.

You can feel for the kid.

He is being asked to play safe minutes, which by and large he has. He has not raced out of position or played recklessly. The double-minor high-sticking penalty he incurred in the third period of Game 4 dramatically shifted momentum but flying sticks happen on most shifts.

But one of the major elements holding him back is face-off production. The Bruins have won 57 per cent of the draws in this series and Kadri is 10-17 in the circle. If you can’t be trusted in the face-off circle, it’s hard to get on the ice,especially if you have been ice-cold offensively.

The truth is, Kadri has not found the right tenor and in this, his first NHL playoff, that should not really surprise.

But if you think Carlyle is reluctant to give young players ice time for fear of imminent danger you weren’t watching Jake Gardiner in Game 4.

Jake Gardiner has a goal and three assists in four games.

Gardiner, left out of Game 1, played nearly 28 minutes and careened around the ice like a waterbug in a teacup.

He was a factor every moment he played and managed to address the basics of his position while getting to places on the ice that no defenceman from either team could reach. He was also excellent defensively.

For that matter, Frattin, an afterthought through the first legs of the game seemed to be thrown on the ice every second shift in the late going and came within the width of a goalpost from winning the game.

Clearly, if a player is ready to vault forward, he will be given lots of rope.

Jake Gardiner showed that in Game 4. So did Frattin. It will make for fascinating viewing to see whether Nazem Kadri manages it in Game 5.

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About Mike Ulmer

Mike Ulmer has written 210 post in this blog.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. All opinions expressed by Mike Ulmer are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Toronto Maple Leafs or its Hockey Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Maple Leafs and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NHL accredited member of the media.



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