Nazem Kadri. Colorado Avalanche folklor. Take a bow. Avs fans may not ever be able to repay you for your actions.
The centerman returned for the first time in 18 days last night for Game 4 of this Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who played hero with his incredible overtime win. Just coming off of surgery for his broken thumb, struggling to even grasp his stick fully, he got the job done and sent the Avs to the cusp of the Cup.
Only a few days ago, Kadri first took shots on net after morning skates. He progressed as the game went on and ended up on top. It may be the best moment of his career, especially with all he’s faced this postseason.
As we all know, he has had a career year, but once the playoffs came about, he was a different beast. He faced what may have been the most challenging part of his career with fans of the st. Louis Blues at his throat after he and Calle Rosen collided with Jordan Binnington, knocking him out for the rest of the season.
It was the start of a tumultuous 48 hours for the centerman, from getting a water bottle chucked at him from the Binnington, as mentioned earlier, receiving death threats, and needing extra security from the police. Not to mention the boos laced with obscene gestures from the crowd in Game 4 against the Blues.
He responded brilliantly with a hat-trick en route to a massive win, even after being jumped by Pavel Buchnevich and David Perron in the second period of that game. Even returning home for Game 5, fans showed him massive support with the stands lined with “Stand with Naz” signs after receiving racist and death threats.
One round later in Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers it all came crashing down for Kadri. He was bulldozed by Evander Kane via a cross-check just feet from the boards in a dirty fashion. It looked like that might’ve been it for the centerman’s career year and maybe the last time we might’ve seen him in an Avalanche uniform.
He has recovered brilliantly from surgery, made his first appearance last night, and was the leading man of the moment after his freak goal that no one knew about until Bowen Byram pointed it out. Could you write a better story? Absolutely not.
So, could Nazem Kadri win the Conn Smythe as early as Friday night?
You can make a case for it, with all the off-ice challenges he and his family have faced and how he has responded on ice. He has seven goals and eight assists in 14 games, averaging over a point a game. Two of those seven goals were on the power play, along with game-winners. He could be a dark horse for the Conn Smythe if the NHL considered his challenges off-ice during these playoffs.
Even if he doesn’t win the Conn Smythe, walking away from the Avs with Lord Stanley would be more than enough for him. If it happens, Kadri would be the first Muslim-born player to win the Stanley Cup, considering he’s the first and only one to play in the league so far. He should be feeling confident for Game 5 tomorrow night. He will get better and build off of that historic overtime goal. Keep it up, Naz. We all are standing with you.