Friday, March 26, 2010

Nazem Kadri vs The Guelph Storm

nazem kadri london knights
Last night I went to my first non-NHL game in years. I once saw a Junior-A game as a kid where there was a few fights and as the opposing player was being thrown out the crowd began to chant ‘hey, hey, hey, goodbye’. I was already hooked on hockey by that point, but that certainly made both hockey and fighting infinitely cooler. After that I’ve caught a few random non-NHL games here and there, but I can’t pretend to be an avid follower.

It’s not that I think poorly of any sort of hockey below the NHL, it’s just that I prefer to pay money to see the best players play. But with a top Leafs prospect poised to make a deep run in the OHL playoffs I thought it was time to dust off the ol’ scouting cap and watch the Leafs’ next 100 point scorer cut his teeth (a guy can dream!).

The whole point of this little adventure was to watch Kadri live. This was actually the second time I’ve seen him play, since I was lucky enough to randomly catch his brief one game emergency call-up to the Leafs (February 8th against the Sharks). He held his own during that game, but I wanted to see him play against his peers. I wanted to see him dominate. Yes, that’s how far this season has fallen for me as a Leafs fan. I’ve resorted to travelling across Southern Ontario to watch the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Heading into last night’s game against the Storm, Kadri was tied with Taylor Hall (fuck him) and Bryan Cameron for the playoff scoring lead with 8 points. Naz had 2 goals and 6 assists, including one overtime winning goal in the first game of the playoffs.

This was after finishing the regular season with 35 goals and 58 assists (93 points) in 56 games played. This put him fifth in OHL scoring and only one point shy of the top 10 in the entire CHL. This is even more impressive considering Kadri (and a few others in the top 10) spent a few weeks during the middle of the season to play in the World Juniors.

Based on this prodigious production I was more than excited to see Kadri in action. I was also excited to see a spirited OHL playoff matchup considering each of the previous three games were decided by one goal, despite London finishing 25 points higher than Guelph during the regular season. Also, considering this was junior hockey I thought there was a chance of a bench clearing brawl. Although, I wasn't watching a QMJHL game, so the chances of that were decidedly less.

Well, Naz didn’t disappoint, but the game certainly did. The Storm fell behind 4-1 in the opening period after taking way too many penalties. It was pretty much over by that point. A Guelph player tried to rally his team with a fight during the dying minutes of the first, but he was pretty much thrown around by the larger London defenceman. After it was all over the final score was 8-2 for London, who now take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back home.

Kadri finished the game with a goal and an assist, which anyone who plays fantasy hockey knows is mildly disappointing considering the team scored 8 goals, but this wasn’t fantasy hockey, so I was still satisfied. Plus, there was one play where they could have given him a cheapy assist, but I guess this wasn’t the 80s.

The goal was on the power-play off a rocket of a point-shot that found the upper portion of the net, beating the goalie cleanly.

Kadri quarterbacked the power-play and showed tremendous vision on the ice. He made some great passes that sliced through the Guelph defence, including one stretch pass from behind the London goal which sprung a London forward on a breakaway. Kaberle-esque.

London didn’t take very many penalties and when they did the game was already well out of hand, so I couldn’t tell if the Knights regularly play Kadri on the penalty kill or not. They better. If you’re the best player on your OHL team I should hope you play in all situations. Not a good sign if you don’t.

Since the game was so lopsided for the Knights I didn’t really get a chance to see Kadri play defence. The Storm had very few chances and were unable to sustain any sort of pressure. However, Naz did make one mistake while manning the point which led to a Guelph breakaway. But like any good player who just screwed up, Naz raced back and cleanly stole the puck from the offending player without even coming close to taking a penalty.

All in all I had a pretty great time at the game. For $10 you can’t really go wrong. The hockey was fast and clean. If the Knights go far during the playoffs I’ve already decided to make a trip to London to see them play. Hopefully they do. Rick secretly wanted them eliminated so Naz could play a meaningless 10 games with the Leafs, but I much prefer that he and the Knights go far so he can be a part of a winning team playing in meaningful games.

Let's hope the Knights play the Windsor Spitfires in the Eastern Conference Finals so Kadri can lay a beat down on that dog-faced Hall.

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