Rangers Get a Boost as Kreider Returns for Qualifying Round

Chris Kreider was in the midst of an excellent regular season when he suffered a broken foot while blocking a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 28. The injury was a devastating blow for the New York Rangers, who had been playing well in a push to make the playoffs.

Chris Kreider New York Rangers
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At the time, it was possible that he would miss the remainder of the season but he has since recovered with the season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. When play resumes, New York will be in the postseason and Kreider’s return should give them some momentum.

Kreider Played Very Well Before the Injury

Despite being involved in trade rumors for most of the season, Kreider was one of the Rangers’ best players. He failed to score a goal in his first seven games but quickly started to produce offensively after that slow start.

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He scored 24 goals in his next 51 games. At the time of his injury, Kreider had 24 goals, 21 assists and was plus-13 in 63 games. He is excellent at scoring on deflections and has used his speed and strength to get to the net. He formed chemistry with his linemates Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich and also had success on the power play.

Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers
Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Kreider’s offensive production can not just be measured by the number of points he has. He has been invaluable in other ways as well. He has repeatedly gone to the front of the net and battled opposing defenseman for positioning to provide excellent screens. He excels on the power play because of his strength. His positioning allows him to score on deflections and help teammates score by screening opposing goaltenders.

Kreider also excels on the forecheck. His speed allows him to get to loose pucks quickly and his strength allows him to protect the puck from defenders. In addition, he doesn’t pass up opportunities to throw checks and has 116 this season. He does a lot of the dirty work to allow the Rangers to gain control of the puck in the offensive zone.

In addition to his impressive offensive play, Kreider has developed into a good defensive forward. He gets back on defense and isn’t afraid to block shots. He can be trusted whether the Blueshirts are tied, trying to come from behind, or trying to hold on to a lead.

Kreider Sparked Playoff Runs in 2012 and 2014

Kreider made his NHL debut in Game 3 of the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. The pressure of playing in New York for the top seed in the Eastern Conference did not faze him. With the Rangers facing elimination, he scored his first NHL goal. It was a game-winner in Ottawa in Game 6. The Blueshirts went on to win the series in seven games.

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In the second round, Kreider scored another game-winning goal in Game 1 against the Washington Capitals. He only averaged 13:09 in time on ice per game but he made a difference when he played. He ended up scoring five goals and had two assists in 18 postseason games. The Rangers beat the Capitals in seven games but fell to the New Jersey Devils in six games in the Eastern Conference Final.

Chris Kreider New York Rangers
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Two years later, he once again helped the Rangers make a postseason run. After a disappointing regular season in 2012-13, Kreider broke out in 2013-14 and developed into one of New York’s top forwards. He had 17 goals and 20 assists through 66 games when he suffered a broken hand which required surgery. The injury forced him to miss the first round of the playoffs but the Rangers were able to defeat the Flyers in seven games without him.

He returned for Game 4 of the Blueshirts’ second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a quiet first game in a 4-2 loss, the Rangers trailed 3-1 in the series. In Game 5, he scored the first goal of the game on a power play. He made a diving pass to Ryan McDonagh who took a shot from the point. Kreider hustled to the rebound and scored. He also had an assist and New York won the game 5-1.

Kreider failed to score in Game 6 or Game 7 but he played well and the Rangers completed their comeback in the series to advance to the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens.

He was a dominant force, showcasing his physicality and speed throughout the series. He finished with three goals and five assists, including the game-winning goal in Game 1 on a breakaway. He also scored with time running out in regulation to tie Game 3. New York won the series in six games.

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The Rangers fell short in the Stanley Cup Final but Kreider had an excellent postseason. He finished with five goals and eight assists in 15 games.

Kreider’s Health Should Not Be a Concern

Kreider’s performances in the 2012 and 2014 playoffs have proven that he can return from a lengthy absence to play well in the postseason. He’s also been healthy for a few weeks now, so he has been able to skate and work out. In addition to that, Kreider should be no rustier than other players because no one has played in games for a long time.

In the past, it hasn’t taken Kreider long to return to form after recovering from injuries. His ability to bounce back quickly should work in his favor, as it has in the past. His speed and strength should be on full display when the postseason begins. His play will be crucial for New York and his return from injury should give the Rangers momentum.