Chris Kreider has been a huge story for the New York Rangers despite the team's massive success this season. And after he signed -- and the fanbase started breathing again -- the next question that formulated became, "when will he play?"
Well, after the Rangers dominant performance (aside from the final 10 minutes) against the Ottawa Senators in game one, John Tortorella confirmed it won't be tonight. But just because Kreider isn't playing doesn't mean he's not learning. From the always fantastic Andrew Gross:
Kreider spent Game 1 studying from the stands, both jotting down real notes on a piece of paper and taking mental notes. His main assignment was to watch Carl Hagelin and his puck pursuit.
"(Hagelin) makes defensemen uncomfortable," Kreider added. "He has an unbelievable first step. He's the best skater in the league...Whenever he used his speed to push and pressure the defensemen, I'd be aware of the situations so I can go back and look at it on tape."
The Rangers' brass told Kreider to emulate his game without the puck around Carl Hagelin, which, in my opinion, is a good choice. Hagelin and Kreider have similar technical skills (both are extremely gifted skaters with blazing speed who can be elusive with the puck), so it makes sense for Kreider to see how those talents are used to be successful in the NHL.
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Where the two differ? Kreider is much more gifted offensively, has a better shot and is much bigger. I would also argue that Kreider is actually a better skater than Hagelin, but I haven't seen Kreider play at the NHL level yet, so it wouldn't be fair to make that comparison right now.
I also, however, became an even bigger fan of Kreider after reading this (also from Gross):
"The atmosphere was awesome," Kreider said. "I've taken in a game at the Garden before. We had great seats.
Kreider said he did get caught up in the game, jumping out of his seat, rooting for his new teammates. He added he can't remember ever being healthy and not participating in a game for his team.
This makes me so happy. I don't really know why. Probably because it puts to bed any fears that Kreider didn't want to play here. Probably because I love when young talent comes through the pipeline and embraces the team. You want your players to care as much about the team as the fans do. You actually want them to care more. There's no question in my mind that Kreider feels that way.
This is playoff hockey, how can you not love playoff hockey? Especially playoff hockey at Madison Square Garden.
So no Kreider tonight, and you know what? That's OK. I would rather him get a few practices in, learn a bit more about the system and at least experience the atmosphere (even from the crowd is better than nothing) before he gets his feet wet.
As for the Rangers themselves, they're probably just focused on tonight. Which is the way it should be.
The lineup, by the way, will remain the same tonight as it was on Thursday. Probably a smart call, if it's not broke then there is no need to fix it.