Being that it happened three years ago and has been discussed ad nauseam since, pretty much all hockey fans are familiar with the Chris Kreider – Carey Price incident from Game 1 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. Early in the second period of that game, with the Rangers already ahead 2-0, Kreider sped up the ice, poked the puck past defenseman Alexei Emelin, and completely torched the blueliner as he moved in for a partial breakaway.
From there, of course, Kreider tripped and slid into Price, inadvertently injuring the Canadiens’ star netminder and ultimately sidelining him for the remainder of the series—one the Rangers would go on to win in six games.
Kreider was vilified in Montreal despite the fact that it was the beaten Emelin who knocked him off balance with a stick to Kreider’s skates. Three years later, Kreider and the Rangers meet Price and the Habs in the postseason once again, this time in the opening round. And once again, the Canadiens will need to watch out for Chris Kreider—not, however, in the way one might think.
A Matchup Nightmare
At 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, Kreider is an imposing figure who naturally uses his size to his advantage in getting to the crease and creating havoc. Add to that his level of speed that few players in the entire NHL can match, and you have a physical specimen that is quite difficult to stop.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 10, 2017
After Kreider made a deadpan joke in the above video about how the Rangers’ skating coach has helped him avoid more goaltender collisions recently, he went into detail about how his playing style—which makes him one of the league’s most imposing forwards—has not changed and will not change.
My game doesn’t change, hasn’t changed. For me to be effective, I need to go and get to the crease. That’s where I’m going to score goals. I don’t have a big one-timer. I’m not scoring from distance, so I need to be a big body, get to the top of the paint, and try to bang stuff home.
Because of his physical gifts and his corresponding style of play, the occasional goaltender collision might occur incidentally (and when it does, it hopefully will not result in injury). But that is not what the Habs need to worry about. Rather, they will have their hands full keeping Kreider off the scoresheet.
Kreider an Effective All-Around Player
Interestingly, despite Kreider’s comments about not having a “big one-timer,” he does, in fact, possess a lethal shot to go along with the strong power-forward aspects of his game. His shot is particularly dangerous when he is using his speed to fly down the left side before unleashing it. He scored several goals in the regular season this way.
Kreider, at age 25, showed more consistency in his game this season than he ever had before. Having been able to finally hone his unique combination of skills, he tallied a career-high 28 goals in 75 games played this season. He added 25 assists to break the 50-point plateau for the first time in his career as well.
Digging a little deeper unearths the overall efficacy of Kreider’s game. His underlying metrics are outstanding, as his past-three-year performance (with this year weighted most heavily) sees him perform in the upper echelon of the NHL in multiple areas.
Kreider is a terrific shot generator whose scoring—especially in terms of primary points—looks even more impressive when examined on a per-60-minute basis. Kreider is, in addition, an above-average shot suppressor, pointing to his ability to drive the play in the Rangers’ favor when he is on the ice. His five-on-five Corsi-for percentage of 53.95 percent this season further validates that notion. The Rangers, while a weak possession team overall, thrive in that regard when Kreider is on the ice.
The American-born Kreider is also a noted playoff performer, having totaled 20 career postseason goals in 65 such contests. He seems to rise to the occasion when more is on the line, so this is his time of year.
Another Carey Price collision incident is unlikely. What is likely, however, is that the Canadiens will have some trouble defending Kreider and keeping him from impacting the series in multiple other ways—and ultimately on the scoreboard. The Rangers certainly have their flaws—particularly on the blue line—but Kreider and their other forwards will at the very least keep the Habs on their toes.