An ode to Christopher James Kreider

Chris Kreider is an all-time Ranger already. His performance in Game 6 to send the Rangers to the ECF just furthered the legend. I know everyone loves Kreids, but I had to put mine in words.
Chris Kreider after scoring the first of his three third period goals in Game 6 vs. the Hurricanes
Chris Kreider after scoring the first of his three third period goals in Game 6 vs. the Hurricanes / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

This past Thursday I arrived at my office and wasn’t feeling great. I ended up taking a sick day and spent most of the afternoon on my couch. While this is probably what I needed, it had some unintended consequences. Instead of spending my day focused on work I now was sitting around with one thing on my mind: Game 6.

To help calm my nerves I wrote a piece about why I thought Rangers fans should remain calm and that I had faith they would win in Raleigh. This worked until the game started, and after watching the first two periods, I was disregarding my own arguments in favor of mentally preparing myself for sweating out a Game 7.  And then, like Gandalf arriving to save Helms Deep’s defenders, my favorite Ranger, Chris Kreider, strode onto the PNC Arena ice in the third and flipped the script. Again.

Before diving into Kreider’s latest heroics I want to first give some background. The first season that I was a Rangers fan was the 2011-12 campaign, which also happens to be the year where Chris Kreider marched onto the NHL stage. Debuting in the 2012 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators, Kreider would put up 5G and 7P in 18 games as the Rangers marched their way to their first conference finals appearance since 1997. While these numbers are not super flashy, they were nonetheless impressive for a 20-year-old in his first taste of NHL action. You could see his potential to not just be an NHL player, but a really good one.

Chris Kreider
Kreider made an instant impact on the Rangers while debuting during the 2012 playoffs / Richard Wolowicz/GettyImages

The next year Kreider bounced between the AHL and NHL, playing just 23 games in the 2012-13 season and had an early stint in Hartford during the 2013-14 season. However, in a late-November tilt against the Vancouver Canucks and former coach John Tortorella, Kreider solidified his spot with the big club. He netted the first hattrick of his career, including two from his office in front of the net. For more context, I was at this game with my dad. As we left our seats following the Rangers’ win, my dad said in regards to Kreider, “they can’t send him back down now.” I was trying to decide which player’s jersey I wanted to get and being there for Kreider’s big moment felt perfect to me. My dad’s comment was the final piece. I walked out of the Garden with a crisp white #20 jersey.

Ever since I got that jersey Chris Kreider has been my favorite player. His playoff performances have certainly helped as well. How about three third period goals in his first playoffs in 2012? Or his OT winner against Boston in 2013 to keep the Rangers alive for another game? Or his game-tying goal with 28.1 seconds left in Game 3 against Montreal in 2014? Or his game-tying goal with 1:41 left and the Rangers on the brink of elimination against Washington in 2015? Or the late go-ahead goal in Game 6 versus Pittsburgh in 2022? You get the point.

Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, Martin St. Louis, Braden Holtby
Kreider after scoring the late game-tying goal vs. the Caps in Game 5 of the 2015 playoffs / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

While the moments were big, his critics harped on the fact that he had not scored 30 goals in a season. Finally, in 2021-22, he laid those demons to bed for good. Kreider leveled up that year, potting an absurd 52 goals, and hasn’t looked back. He has scored 30+ goals each of the past two seasons. In the playoffs his totals match the moment. During the Rangers’ 2022 run to the conference finals, he had 10 goals in 20 games. In the loss against the Devils last season, he certainly was not a problem, as he had six goals in seven games. So far in this year’s playoffs, Kreider has 10 points (seven goals) in 10 games. Of those seven goals, four have either tied the game or given the Rangers the lead. For the cherry on top: Kreids is tied with Mark Messier for the most goals (16) in NHL history in games where his team faces elimination. He usually rises to the occasion, something most of the Rangers biggest stars over the past decade plus have not.  

Which brings us to Thursday night. To be frank, the Rangers were overmatched through two periods. Just about everyone looked out of gas. Carolina led 3-1 and showed no signs of giving the Rangers a quality chance to score. Jordan Martinook’s ridiculous diving stop on Ryan Lindgren, the best scoring chance the Rangers had outside of their actual goal, seemed to be an indicator that they were not destined to win this one. Until Chris Kreider happened.

To be fair, it was not all him. Frederick Anderson made a costly mistake on the first goal and Jack Roslovic, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Lindgren all made nice plays to generate opportunities for Kreider to score. However, I would argue that Kreider creates his own chances just by making himself available. On the first goal, he was the only player to crash the net and really look for the puck. Anderson was slow to react and he took advantage. On the tying goal he used his unbelievable eye-hand coordination to redirect Panarin’s shot. For his coup de grace, Kreider fooled Jalen Chatfield into thinking he was going to clear out from in front of the net and repositioned himself in a soft spot where he went unchecked and had plenty of time to tap in the go-ahead goal.

Chris Kreider
Where would the Rangers be without Chris Kreider? / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

Each one of these goals was bigger than the last. Each goal brought about a satisfying combination of elation, hope, and, ultimately, relief. A Game 7 would have been agonizing. It would have been borderline unenjoyable. Heck, Game 6 was unenjoyable for 40 minutes. Yet, like he so often does, Chris Kreider turned it into a moment we will never forget. Each goal had me jumping up and yelling with that aforementioned concoction of emotions. It felt like an elimination game, like it was do-or-die. If they had lost, I think everyone and their mother would’ve picked the Canes in Game 7. Thank god it did not come to that.

Anyways, I don’t think any of this is particularly groundbreaking or unique. We all love Chris Kreider. His teammates love him. He has been in ours lives forever. He is the last remnant of that 2014 team. He is the greatest playoff goal scorer in Rangers’ history by a wide margin. When it’s all said and done, he could be the greatest goal scorer in Rangers’ history period. And yet he still does not get as much recognition as he truly deserves. So, this is my way of showing my appreciation for Kreids. He is a consummate professional, a quintessential Ranger, and an incredible hockey player. He’s a major reason why I fell in love with hockey.  And he just saved our bacon and allowed the Team of Destiny (credit to Avery Zaretsky) to advance to the Conference Finals. I know he’s got a lot more in the tank. Watch out Florida.