The Chris Kreider effect

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

When Chris Kreider went down with his hand injury in March, the immediate effect wasn’t apparent. The Rangers kept winning, and the hole in the lineup, specifically on the second line, wasn’t exposed. That’s to be expected when you consider the relatively easy March/April schedule for the Rangers, but with the playoffs looming, the club had a real problem on their hands. They didn’t have the depth to replace a top-six forward.

The hole was something that New York struggled to fix. Jesper Fast proved to be effective in a defensive role, but lacked the offensive punch (for now) to be a mainstay in the lineup. J.T. Miller had the exact opposite problem, as his play without the puck was too erratic to counter his aggressive play. Dan Carcillo was certainly effective, but he has always been more of a wild card than a reliable offensive force. Call him the new Sean Avery, circa 2011. None of these three had the ability to fill the hole Kreider left, and it showed.

If not for some savvy coaching by Alain Vigneault, the Rangers would not have survived the first round with Philadelphia. All three replacements saw time in the series, and each time the initial change was made, the player made a difference in the lineup. But it was very clear that none of them would stick long enough in the lineup to make a bigger difference.

When Kreider returned for Game Four, the effect was almost instantaneous. Kreider’s combination of speed, tenacity, net presence and physicality were something they were sorely missing from their top-six. Kreider was parking himself in front of the net, getting offensive opportunities, and providing the Rangers with top-six depth they needed to rattle off three straight wins to beat the Penguins.

With Kreider back, the Rangers have the depth and skill at forward to match some of the Western Conference powerhouses, should they advance past the Montreal Canadiens. He’s not without his faults, as he is still a bit of a liability without the puck (not as bad as Miller, but worse than Fast and Carcillo). But you deal with that since his speed and talent (1-1-2 in his four games these playoffs) more than make up for it.

Kreider certainly wasn’t THE reason why the Rangers came back from 3-1 down to beat the Penguins, but he was certainly a key contributor.  Before, the Rangers had two scoring lines, a defensive line, and a bit of a question mark line. Now they have three scoring lines and a defensive line. Kreider’s return has made them an even more difficult opponent in the playoffs. These Rangers are certainly a different team than the ones that almost bowed out of the playoffs in uninspiring fashion.

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  • Plus he plays with a snarl and he’s probably the strongest player on the team. He’s in beast mode.

    • This!

      People talk about Rick Nash needing to play like a mean, nasty power forward. I don’t necessarily disagree with that notion and Nash has definitely had more snarl to his game (especially by throwing the body), but Kreider is THAT guy. He plays big… and mean… and nasty… and fast. Every time they show a close up of his face he’s got a mean look on it and he’s yelling at someone. Chris Kreider needs to play like a much bigger, better skilled version of Adam Graves.

      Also, the penalty Kreider took in game 7 was because Crosby grabbed him, which was smart on Crosby’s part. He knew a keyed up young player was stick-checking him, so he grabbed the jersey/arm and made it seem like he was being held up as he crossed the blue line. It was a savvy veteran move (Thanks James Neal for botching that power play sequence), and hopefully Kreider learned from that mistake in game 7.

      I think the series between the Rangers and Canadiens will be played fast and tight, with lots of checking, but also lot’s of open ice (at times) and great goaltending. Of course, you might read that and say “that sounds like every series,” but hey… whaddayaaaa want from me! Let’s go Rangers :).

  • From day one I liked this kid very much. You can’t teach size, and speed. As an organization we should look for guys like this in the future. The whole of the NHL is getting bigger, stronger, and faster, and we have to keep up!

  • What was it a scout once said about McDonagh? He’s “dimensional”? That’s what Kreider is. You notice him and have to account for him. A veritable freight train in the offensive zone and learning D responsibility too.

    Kreider’s going to have to be watched the whole time by Montreal, esp. their D. That takes away from other areas; opens up space. Hello Rick Nash, I think you break out in this series. And if they cluster on Nash, so be it. Kreider is rounding into form and if he’s on he is going to be a beast as Jerseyranger put it.

  • Nash
    St. Louis

    On paper that’s a really solid offensive top 9 and will be a load for Montreal D. Make Suban play DEFENSE. Meanwhile our D is not the Bruins beat up, aging D. They are younger, healthier and more mobile. So they are a key too.

    • Gary:
      I’m in sync with your observation about our D-corps being more mobile than Boston’s.

      But theirs, save for Chara and the injured Seidenberg is far from an aging group. The likes of Boychuk, McQuaid, Miller and Krug are far closer to the beginning of their respective careers than to the end.

  • Kreider has definitely had a positive effect. I think he is the real wildcard, as when he gets on the ice, he may lay out out with a hard check, pass you by with his speed, or get dirty in front and drop one in. He is better than I believed.

    Not a Habs follower, so Dave/Suit, tell me about their 3rd pair and their bottom 6.

  • Good piece. Kreider will develop into one of the elite power forwards in the league someday… hell, he’s almost there now. He’s got all the tools, just needs a little more experience to help him get his head on straight… one more playoff season should do it… he will wear the C on his chest one day. I just hope Sather has the sense to keep him.

    • Bill

      That is a frightning thought that Slats would even think of moving the kid. Even he can’t be that stupid, now can he???????

        • Blah blah blah… Has he steadily improved the team and the farm system the last ten years? Have we won rounds in the playoffs the last three years? Are we in our second conference finals in the past three years?

          Really getting sick of the Sather hate. Glen Sather 200-2004 isn’t the same GM that Glen Sather 2006-2014 has been. The team he’s constructed rolls 4 deep lines in a league with a hard salary cap.

          When Brad Richards was signed his contract was looked at as a team-friendly deal.

          When Ryan Callahan demanded the money he demanded everyone said he was crazy. Who was the absolute best player available we could have traded Callahan for? Martin St. Louis.

          I get that you might just be waxing poetic but the “even Sather can’t be so dumb” holds no weight in my opinion at this point. We’re one of the final 4 teams standing for the 2nd time in three years. And we have as good a chance as everyone to keep it going.

          • Please…Sather is one of the better GM’s in the league. The farm system is solid, and if he buys out Richards, the only player who might negatively affect our long term cap situation is Nash. His big ticket free agent signings have been questionable, but he has managed to make up for a few bad moves with shrewd trades and an understanding of the rules in place at the time of the signings.

            From a trading standpoint, he is not afraid to make bold moves to get the team to the next level. Although I didn’t really like giving up two high picks to get St Louis, if he gives us a chance to go all the way it will be worth it. Not every trade is going to work out as planned (this means you Nick Rash), but at the time of the trade, there were very few people saying it was a bad move. He also came up with what might be the best trade in the history of the franchise (Mac Truck for not having gomez’s salary). Who here isn’t glad that we fleeced MTL and don’t have to face McDonagh in a Habs sweater this series.

            If we win the cup, those same people are gonna say we won in spite of Sather. Stop hating and enjoy the ride!

  • Good One – As I said in my post yesterday 🙂 he has definitely stabilized things. The kid has a lot of tools – speed, strength, toughness, and a hell of a shot.

    The feistiness he has developed this year is really nice to see and his emotion is contagious and it shows with his teammates.

    Got to think that much of his development is due to not having to worry about looking over his shoulder and see Tort’s Chateu Bow-Wow.

    Speaking of Torts – Don’t know if anyone will ever employ him again, but boy wouldn’t he be an interesting choice for the Penguins if Bylsma goes. Cindy needs someone to get in his face…

    • I appreciated everything Torts brought to this club, but at the end of his reign, I was definitely one calling for his dismissal. However, today, Boyle said that Torts was largely responsible for teaching him the way he plays the game today. I think Kreider would say the same, if asked. Torts brought this team to another level then they had known, and I thank him for that, as should we all, because without him, we are probably not playing in the 2014 ECF. Obviously AV’s system is better for tis team at this time. I thank him for that! LGR!!

      • slow clap…

        You really hit the nail on the head. During his tenure, Torts brought much needed accountability, work ethic and call it a blue collar mentality to an organization mostly void of all 3 at the time. I don’t think many will argue that he squeezed a whole lot out of the roster(s) he was given. In my humble opinion the 2 main reasons the Rangers were top team in the East and made it to the ECF in 2011-12 were 1 Lundqvist and 2 Tortarella.

        Things seemed to fall apart at the end of his tenure and many speculated that the room was lost. All coaches have a shelf life and abrasive individuals usually have a shorter one if the wins are not piling up. It was just the right time.

        Without his 4 or so years with us, I am in full agreement that we would not be where we are right now. AV has come in and is exceeding my expectations for this year. I thought we would need more time between regimes to get this far in the playoffs.

        I’ve said it before (in the BSB comments) and I will say it again… regardless of what happens this round, Sather has finessed his way through a great deal of organizational turnover from 2011-12 and 2013-14. I believe very few GMs would have enough of these moving parts click and have their teams be only 1 year removed from ECF appearances. For all the hate he gets, few have acknowledged this accomplishment.

        • Totally agree with the sentiment on Tort’s – I loved him when he was here in Tampa (he lived in my neighborhood) and didn’t really think he should have been let go.

          He was absolutely the right guy at the right time for the Rangers as well. No doubt he did a lot of shaping with Boyle, Kreids and others and he also brought much needed accountability. But for all the positive he did in the beginning (and there was a ton of it) toward the end he was a big negative. Brad Richards is 7-0 in game sevens – I would think you want him on the ice for the Stanley’s. IMO, If your players have to look over their shoulder every day then the coach has lost his usefulness.

          I don’t know what the NHL GM’s think of him, but to let him go with four years left is a pretty bold move and I have to think there will be caution by anyone who may entertain his hiring.

          He is more or less the antithesis of Bylsma and maybe that is just what they need. But hey, I don’t want the Pens to get any better just voicing my opinion.

        • Shelf life, what about Scotty Bowman??? One of the biggest horses butts out there, but winning five cups with Montreal, then Detroit, and Pittsburg as well, no one ever thought of running him out of town. Tort’s act got stale, and that is the reason he was let go!!

  • Nice write up Dave, I agree with it all, except one line. Kreider did not have an instantaneous effect on the Rangers. They were as bad as I have seen them all year, not because of Kreider or in spite of him. I don’t think the Rangers even know why they played that poorly. Boyle said on Boomer and Cartin Today, that game 4 “embarrassed” the whole team. Having said that, he does bring a different element to the team that was sorely missed during his absence. Once the rust was knocked off, and the rest of the Rangers decided to play the way they can, what he brings to the club is not refutable. This team can beat the Canadiens and I believe they will!!

  • Man, I’m loving the overconfidence over at all the Habs blogs. They’re already singing their own praises for their assured trip to the Finals.

    Apparently, the Rangers are OK, but Price is the best goalie in the world, their D (Subban) will shut down everything the Rangers have, and we cant contain their 4 lines. Oh yea, and Lundqvist can’t play in Montreal.

    I can’t wait to stun these guys!

    • I really don’t think they have any idea what the Rangers can bring to the table.

      This is going to be a real interesting series though. Lot’s of great matchups, because both teams are so similar.

      Lundqvist vs Price (Sweden vs Canada).
      McDonagh vs Subban (they still regret that one!).
      St. Louis vs Gionta (the diminutive veterans).
      Pouliot vs Pacioretty (the battle of the 67s).
      Dorsett vs Prust (will it happen?).

      Outside or Montreal, we all know Lundqvist tops Price any day of the week, and our D is leaps and bounds more stifling than their. Offensive depth seems to me to be pretty even, but their PP has been lethal.

      We’d need to rely on what we do best, defense and goaltending and hope that our speed attack can get some past Price.

      Let’s Go Rangers!

    • The Rangers do that have that Bell Centre(er) monkey on their back. There is some proving to do in this series, in my opinion. As always, I’m cautiously optimistic.

      • As for the Bell Centre. Hank has never played there in the playoffs.

        He ain’t gonna be his typical Montreal no-show this time around.

    • I will say this. I followed that series very closely, living in Boston and all. And the Montreal team/fans just won their Stanley Cup beating the hated Bruins.

      They’re riding a high right now and I’m curious to see if they can sustain it against a team that they just don’t have as much animosity towards. Believe me, the hatred they had for the Bruins fueled that series win.

      • I agree entirely. Every post since last night has 400+ comments on all the Habs blogs, and the general gist of pretty much every comment is how much they hate Lucic, Marchand, Chara, and Thornton, how classless Boston is, how 4 years of suffering has been washed away, how they had to overcome poor anti-Canadian officiating, how theirs is a beautiful underdog triumph. Oh yea, and how they can’t believe they’re heading to the Cup after they steamroll the Rangers.

        For their sake, I hope the actual Canadien players have a little more focus on what lies ahead in the ECF.

  • I agree that Kreider was missed and is a much better option than Carcillo/Fast/Miller. However, I was impressed with how those 3 filled in. They combined for 5 points in 10 games and I thought they kept mistakes to a minimum. I don’t think you could ask for more than that out of a 13th forward. I think this showed that the Rangers do have decent depth this year. Most teams do not have a reliable top 6 forward waiting in the wings. Teams usually fill in a top 6 role by bumping up a 3rd or 4th liner, but AV wisely didn’t want to break up those lines. Carcillo/Fast/Miller aren’t ideal top 6 forwards at this point in their careers, but they do deserve some praise. I mean, we could still have Stu Bickel serving as the 13th forward 🙂

  • The Montreal curse was true under the old forum….Since they moved to Bell Center…I feel we were in all the games….I hated that old Forum with the blue Lines at the bottom of the board….it was as if in any shape or form Montreal cou;ld seperate from the rest of the NHL. Rhe fans with their elitist attitudes should be fun to watch as the Rangers dismantle the (hab nots)Let’s go Rangers!!!!!!

  • The day of the Richards signing EVERYONE said that Sather had overpaid and would buy him out LONG BEFORE his contract expired. Please do not attempt to rewrite history. In fact, Sather said that if Richards could get past the 1st three years of Richards contract, he could work something out.

    Kreider is an important member of the Ranger top 9, but Rangers could have drafted Christian Thomas’s wingmate Boone Jenner who backchecks, hits, fights, scores, etc.. and is big at 6-2, 210. He looks like the better playerand is younger than Kreider.

    Next season, RFAs Pouliot, Kreider, Brassard, Zuccarello are all going to hold out for bigger contracts before camp opens. Talbot & Staal need to get resigned or become UFAs the following season.

    We didn’t have a #1 or #2 pick this season, no #2 pick last season, and no #1 picks in 2014 or 2015.
    Our farm system has been voted by Hockey’s Futures as one of the worst in the NHL and will get worse in the next few years.

    We win the cup this season, or we end up like the Knicks-a team with limited upside.

    • Well ok on the draft picks observation. Sather starting to give them away but then again he has not had overwhelming success with them anyway. But i for one am very happy with Krieder and he will only get better especially if there was a bit more determination on the 1st line. Can Stepan be the Center that unleashes this guy? For now i am just going to enjoy this playoff ride right now and pray for a final against Anaheim.

  • Kreider is a tough matchup for anyone and he does play a bit mean.. Be something to see if he actually was the guy being fed the puck instead of the guy always setting up the others. But whatever, he can be a difference maker in the playoffs if he plays like he is capable of.

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