When the Rangers signed Chris Kreider almost three weeks ago, I was skeptical of the impact he would have for the Blueshirts. Like everybody else, I believe that Kreider has the potential to be an all-star in the NHL and a cornerstone for the Rangers for the foreseeable future. Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t feel that the talent he had would come to the surface in the 2012 Playoffs, the first professional games of his career. And as everyone knows, after the last three games, I was dead wrong.
Kreider’s success in the playoffs has a lot to do with the physical ability he has. Although he is a day away from turning 21, Kreider, at 6’3” and 230 pounds has a body that’s already suited for the NHL game. In addition to his size, he is also one of the fastest players in the league. With his size and skating ability, Kreider hasn’t looked out of place at the NHL level.
It’s a rare situation when a player at the college level not only makes the jump to an NHL roster a few weeks after finishing his college season, but to also be a top-six forward on the NHL team, especially a first place team like the Rangers. However, Kreider has done that, and he has made the transition seamlessly. After getting shutout by the Senators in Game 5, the Rangers bumped Kreider up to the 2nd line, along with Derek Stepan (who was struggling at the time) and Ryan Callahan. In their first game together, Stepan had a goal and two assists, his first points in 11 career playoff games, and he set up Kreider for the eventual game winning goal. The duo clicked again in Game 1 against the Capitals, with Stepan sending a long pass to Kreider, who buried his 2nd goal of the playoffs, and his 2nd game winning goal.
Not only has Kreider impressed offensively, but his responsible play in the defensive zone has been on the major reasons that John Tortorella feels comfortable enough using Kreider in any situation, including the last few seconds of Game 7 to protect a one-goal lead against the Senators. The Rangers haven’t made it a secret that in order to be successful in the playoffs, they need to play the defensive system that they have used all year long, and although it might not be pretty, it is effective. Since Kreider hasn’t looked out of place on the defensive side of center ice, his ice time jumped from under ten minutes a game to as high as 18:21 in Game 7 and 15:28 in Game 1 against the Capitals.
Right now, Chris Kreider is the toast of New York. He has used the word “surreal” about ten times in his post-game interviews to describe the way the last three weeks have gone for him. On top of that, he gets to celebrate his 21st birthday by playing in an NHL playoff game in New York City, and potentially hear his name chanted by the Garden Faithful like it was in Game 1. Kreider has proved me wrong, and hopefully the kid continues to do the same for the next few months.