Toronto – Nazem Kadri’s once rotten luck has taken a sharp turn for the better.
The 26-year-old Maple Leafs centre was 27 games and more than 100 shots into the 2015-16 campaign before he had five goals on the board. Kadri has already matched that modest milestone this season on just 21 shots in 10 games, including a pair against the Oilers on Tuesday night.
“It’s crazy the difference,” Kadri said after practice on Wednesday afternoon.
Every shot feels like it will drop during hot streaks like this one. The puck seems to wind up on the tape almost incessantly. It feels like there is endless time and space to make plays.
“When you’re on a drought, not scoring, it seems like the goalies are massive, three times the size they normally are, the net’s three times smaller,” Kadri explained.
“When you start to produce and score goals you just start to feel better about yourself and more comfortable. You don’t second-guess the reaction plays that you make on the ice they just naturally happen.”
Kadri’s dry spell lingered in the fall of 2015. He had one goal on his first 83 shots, with nights of five, six, and seven shots on goal leaving nothing but zeroes on the scoreboard. Grade-A chances seemed to be stopped with regularity, Kadri often gazing skyward for answers.
It became a mental test, as he recalled one year later, one of those tests of adversity that requires only persistence – and many more shots.
Eventually a few of those shots started to go in.
Kadri finished with 17 goals on a career-high 260 shots (3.4 per-game), the 11th most of any player in hockey. His 6.5 per cent shooting percentage, though, was a career-low in a full season.
“I was still playing the right way,” he said. “I was still able to make plays and have that confidence, but when the puck drops or a basket drops for you just feel better about shooting the puck the next time or just not second-guessing yourself. If you’re scoring you’re going to shoot and if you’re not scoring you’re probably not going to look to shoot as much, but just to distribute and help out in that area.”
Leafs coach Mike Babcock publicly prodded Kadri to work on the quality of his shot last year, and Kadri said he tried to address both the mechanics and release of his attempts.
“It’s got to improve a lot more,” Babcock said Wednesday. “He scores from in tight, but why not expand on that?”
By Jonas Siegel
The Canadian Press