It’s futile to ask the Rangers’ Chris Kreider about his individual accomplishments. No amount of prodding can get the 27-year-old left wing to talk about the fact that he is on the verge of eclipsing his personal bests in goals, assists and points.
“I don’t give a [expletive] about that,’’ he said. “I want to play games that matter in the spring. I think everyone in the room will echo that sentiment. I mean, I’ve played on teams where the leading goal-scorer didn’t have 30 and we were in the Eastern Conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals.’’
The Rangers likely aren’t going to the Eastern Conference finals, let alone the Stanley Cup Final this season. After Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opener of a five-game homestand, they are 22-22-7, eight points out a playoff spot.
With 31 games left, beginning Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings, it would take a near miracle for them to make up enough ground to get into the playoffs.
But Kreider, who is second on the team with 39 points (23 goals, 16 assists), is doing all he can to drive the team toward the postseason. He and linemates Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello have carried the team for nearly a month.
In the last eight games in which they’ve been together (Zuccarello missed one game with an infected foot), the three players have totaled 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists). Kreider has three goals and four assists in that span.
“You know, when he’s skating and not overthinking things, he really is impactful in all three zones,’’ coach David Quinn said. “One of the things we’ve talked to him about, I’d like to see him [do], is draw more penalties. I think he’s a guy that people should have to haul down and do everything they can to stop him. I think sometimes, because he’s such a bright guy and can be very analytical, he sometimes overthinks it. But he’s had a really good year for us.’’
At his current pace, Kreider would end up with 37 goals, 26 assists and 63 points in 82 games. His career highs are 28 goals, 25 assists (done twice) and 53 points.
But he swears those numbers don’t mean anything to him.
“The reason why we play this game is because we enjoy being around the group and we enjoy winning as a group,’’ he said. “There’s no better feeling than that. We just want to win hockey games.’’