Not that there’s ever a good time to go on a scoring drought, but doing so when your team is on the verge of clinching their first playoff spot in eight seasons is the definition of bad timing.
Nazem Kadri recorded a hat-trick and added an assist on March 30th against the Ottawa Senators and it seemed a dangerous scoring duo was being formed between the young forward and Joffrey Lupul. Shortly after, however, Lupul went down with a concussion and Kadri fell into somewhat of a tailspin. Since that game against the Sens, and perhaps receiving a “Kiss of Death” from Don Cherry afterwards, Kadri has failed to score and has only posted two helpers.
The Leafs have survived without his offense for the most part, picking up points in five of those games, but after losing two straight and watching the standings become slightly more congested, a big outing by Kadri is something Toronto definitely needs. Lupul has since returned from his injury and Kadri has proven to be an elite point producer for most of this year, so what are the chances he gets this sorted out?
Reasons to worry
What is arguably more impressive than his scoring explosion in 2013, has been Kadri’s improved two-way play. His plus-14 rating ranks second on the Leafs and that part of Kadri’s game has allowed Carlyle not to restrict his minutes in certain situations. During this recent slump though, Kadri has been a minus-6 and only once in the last eight contests has he finished a game with a plus rating.
Reasons to be Optimistic
It’s not like Kadri hasn’t been generating his fair share of scoring chances during this rough patch. He has recorded 12 shots over the eight games and if he continues on that pace it will only be a matter of time before he breaks through. Not to mention that Lupul looked a lot better in his second game back from injury on Thursday against the Islanders, so the two should hopefully be able to re-ignite their chemistry sooner rather than later.
With all that being said, the Leafs head into Ottawa tonight and that has been an opponent Kadri has excelled against. He has posted six points in the four games versus the Sens this season, including an aforementioned four point night the last time the teams met.
Kadri is just as responsible for the Leafs’ turnaround this year as the improved goaltending and penalty kill. Having an elite talent step up the way he did has made a huge difference and has given Toronto a much more balanced attack. One would think if they hope to clinch a spot and do any damage in the post-season, it’s going to be directly related to Kadri getting back on track.