Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.
Welcome to the NHL, Chris Kreider
Who can blame Chris Kreider if he woke up this morning here in Ontario and wondered if he was dreaming?
Welcome to the NHL, young man.
“It’s a helluva spot we’re putting the kid in, coach John Tortorella said after Kreider’s pro debut, in which he played 11:11, but only 2:34 in the third. “I figured I’d leave him alone, let him watch, he certainly showed he can skate in this league.”
Why not let him watch? After all, eyes were on the 20-year-old from here in Kanata to New York to Chestnut Hill and the Boston area as the big winger stepped in for the suspended Carl Hagelin last night in the 1-0 Rangers win that put them up 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with Game 4 on Wednesday.
Just nine days after winning the NCAA Championship, here was Kreider, who knew on Sunday night that he would play, inserted on a line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. That, he didn’t know.
“Last-minute thing,” Kreider said after the game. “It was a feeling-out process, more than anything I tried to chip pucks to them, they’re the best players in the league, but at the same time try not to make risky plays just to get the puck to them.”
Richards’ assessment of the team’s first-round draft pick in 2009?
“He played very well. First game ever, on the road, playoff gamer, you can tell the pace (got to him), he’ll probably in a little better shape, once he gets used to it, he’ll beat guys to the puck. It was tough on all three of us, I never played with him, didn’t know his tendencies, he didn’t know ours. We had a good talk. In the second period, he was better, controlling the puck.”
“I came from college, so it was a huge jump,” said Kreider, who had just two full practices after signing an entry-level deal and coming to Westchester to join the team. “It was hard to prepare for the first period…I just wanted to move my feet and I did, almost to the point where I was wearing myself out. I’ve got to pick my spots a little better than I did.”
Kreider, the first player in 25 years to win an NCAA title and appear in an NHL playoff game that same season, said he needs to be more defensively reliable. “There were a couple of plays I would’ve liked to have back…a defenseman pinching in, I tried to chip it by him, too soft, and one of our defensemen made a good play and got it out, but that’s not something I can do if I want to play.”
Winning puck battles, he said, forcing defenseman to make plays, is what he needs to do. That and getting adjusted off the ice. “Just try to soak everything in, ask questions.’’