New York Rangers’ left wing Chris Kreider has a unique combination of strength, speed and skill. But his most lethal offensive weapon is something few power forwards in the NHL possess.
There is no doubt that Chris Kreider has a unique skill set among New York Rangers forwards. Since he came up to the Show for the 2012 playoffs and broke in with five goals during the Rangers’ run to the Eastern Conference Final, scouts and analysts have salivated over the left winger’s ability…and wondered when he would finally break out.
While Kreider is off to an excellent start to the 2016-17 season, with 7 goals and 11 assists in 22 games, it’s important to look at just what about his game is so promising.
The first things that jump out at the casual observer are the sheer size and speed of Kreider. He possesses a rare combination of power, strength, and straight-line acceleration. It’s the kind of package that has every coach drooling, with the vision of a bruising, producing, top-six winger.
But there is more to scoring goals than skating fast and throwing the body around down low—and Kreider has a couple tools that stand out in this regard.
Many Kreider goals result from what has become a classic play in recent years: Derek Stepan (or some other center) throws the puck off the boards, Kreider uses his speed to beat the D to it down the left wing, and then cuts cross-crease and sneaks a backhander inside the far post.
It’s a play that maximizes the physical tools that give Kreider an advantage over opposing defenses. He can use his elite speed to open space and drive the net, then use his size and reach to get around the goalie and put the puck in the net.
But Kreider’s more impressive asset is his ability to release the puck in positions that catch the goalie unprepared and do so with such velocity that there is no chance for a save.
The now-infamous 2014 play that resulted in a sprained knee for Carey Price is an example of this.
Looking past the resulting collision, Kreider was breaking in on a goalie with speed, having just been slashed and knocked off-balance. Despite his attempt to stop, thus putting him in an awkward position, Kreider still got a shot off, missing inches wide, with Price taken off-guard. Only minutes later, he scored a goal on a similar play.
More recently, we saw Kreider use this technique to score a goal against the Florida Panthers. After receiving a pass in-zone, he faked a shot, showing Panthers’ goalie James Reimer that he was on his back foot—thus in an almost impossible shooting position—before releasing a laser.
Reimer had no chance, and it was all about the way Kreider set up his body prior to shooting. The fake was nice, but it was the speed with which he shot after the fake that sealed the goal. Indeed, during the actual release of the puck, both of his feet were off the ice. It was the kind of shot that only two or three players in the NHL would even think of attempting, much less executing.
A typical NHL power forward scores most of his goals from the dirty areas, but Chris Kreider’s technique gives him a leg up. The Rangers haven’t had a player with such a dangerous release since the years of Marian Gaborik.
All that remains to be seen is whether or not Kreider will continue to put together his game around his lethal scoring touch.