GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Chris Kreider is cautious, ever so cautious, when talking about his terrific start to the season.
"The whole team is playing well and we’re winning hockey games," Kreider said on Wednesday when asked about his scoring this season. "I think we’ve gotten better as a group."
Perhaps Kreider, who hasn’t been the model of consistency throughout his 10-year NHL career, doesn’t want to jinx a good thing. Or perhaps he is just being team-first, hockey-player modest. Whatever the case, it may not matter. Because stats don’t lie.
At age 30, Kreider is producing at an amazing clip. He has 12 goals in 16 games, tying him with Kyle Connor and Alex Ovechkin for second place in the NHL behind leader Leon Draisaitl (17). His seven power-play goals are also second most in the league, behind Draisaitl’s nine. Consider that Kreider has never scored more than 28 goals in a season, but is now on pace to score more than 60.
"He shoots the puck, he skates, he has all the tools," Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said after practice. "Things are going well. He’s playing with good hockey players. He’s near the top in power-play goals in the league. He’s doing the right things.
"He comes to the rink and goes and plays and has fun. I think if he does that, he’s going to have a great season. But right now, he's just skating and shooting the puck and playing with a lot of confidence."
Kreider has scored four goals during the Rangers' four-game winning streak, including a second-period goal in a 3-2 win over Montreal on Tuesday. Kreider also scored the deciding goal in the seventh round of a shootout Sunday night as the Rangers defeated the Devils, 4-3.
One thing is for sure. Kreider, the longest-tenured player on the Rangers, is having fun with this group of players. He said the backhanded goal he made in the shootout is something that he has been working on with Mika Zibanejad.
"That’s his bread and butter," Kreider said. " . . . I feel like every day I’m going and picking his brain. I see him doing something. It’s so fun being with him and being with [Artemi Panarin]. They are doing all these crazy things. Even if those aren’t the staples of my game, it’s just fun to try to work on those cause they make it look so effortless and easy.
"It makes for a really cool, fun learning environment. I think we have that throughout the organization. Guys are excited to practice and want to learn stuff."
Notes & quotes: Gallant is understandably feeling good about his team as they head into Thursday’s road game against the Maple Leafs. "We’re playing well right now," he said. "I like the way we’ve played the last three games especially. We’re piling up some wins but we’re playing the right way. I like the way things are going. Our team looks more like a team. Everybody played well last night. Everybody contributed. When good teams are made, that’s what happens. And I’m starting to see a little bit of that right now with our group." . . . Defenseman Jacob Trouba (maintenance) did not skate Wednesday.