chris kreider

Much of the discussion this season has been on the defensive issues, Henrik Lundqvist’s inconsistencies, and what the team needs to do to be a true contender in the Eastern Conference. Lost in all this, however, is the season being had by Chris Kreider. Kreider has been a beast this year, and appears to finally be having that breakout season we all expected over the past few years.

Kreider already has 17 goals and 31 points in 38 games this season, and would likely be slightly higher had he not missed a few games with back spasms. Increased production on the powerplay (4-4-8 already) has played a role in Kreider’s breakout season, but it’s the consistency that seems to be the major change this year. Through the first half of the season, Kreider hasn’t gone through one of his traditional long slumps without scoring.

Indeed, Kreider is certainly more engaged. The rare combination of size, speed, and skill has finally clicked for the winger, as he was one of the forwards that carried the Rangers during their injury stretch recently. Being more engaged, tracking down pucks in the corners, tenacious forechecking, and other smaller aspects of the game are showing up in his CF% as well, where he leads the forwards with a whopping 54.97 CF%.

He is shooting slightly above his career average right now (at 16%, as opposed to a 13% career average), but that doesn’t mean a huge crash is coming.¬†One of the bigger differences this season, aside from being more engaged consistently, is that Kreider is simply shooting more. Last year he took 158 shots in 79 games, which was two per game. This year he’s already at 107 through 38 games, which is 2.81 shots per game. That’s almost a full shot per game, or a 230 shot pace for 82 games. His career high is 180 shots in a season.

It’s amazing what can happen when you shoot more. But in Kreider’s case, it’s amazing what can happen when you improve on your net-front presence. Kreider has been a monster in front of the net, at least per the eye test (I can’t find a site that has updated 2016-2017 individual shot distance data). He’s certainly been more effective in screening goalies and deflecting pucks on net.

In a season that’s having its ups and downs, Kreider has been a steady dominating force on the ice for the Rangers. On pace to set new career highs in pretty much everything, Kreider has begun to cement himself as a go-to scorer for a team that is full of talent. His rare combination of speed, skill, and size has always been a matchup nightmare for opponents. Now he has the points to go with it.

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