Chris Kreider hasn't scored a goal since November 8th, when he picked up a deflection goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs off of a point blast from Kevin Klein. Since that goal Kreider has put 18 shots on net and picked up 3 assists but has not beaten a goalie in ten games. Simply put, the Rangers need Chris Kreider to be contributing more to the offense if he's going to be playing in the top six and it isn't just about putting up numbers in the box score. Kreider was a hard player to notice in the Rangers' lineup in November. On the 23rd he had a strong game against the Canadiens when he picked up 2 assists and registered 7 shots on net but other than that he has been very quiet. And the Rangers can't afford to have a quiet, non-impactful Kreider in the lineup.
In 66 games last season Kreider had 17 goals and 20 assists so it wasn't outlandish to hope that he'd be on a pace to get over the 20 goal mark this season. It's worth noting that his shooting percentage has taken a significant plunge of 4.2% (down from 12.5% to 8.3%) since last season, but there might be a lot more to it than pucks simply not going in for the Rangers' young power forward. This may be something that is hard to swallow when you think of all the tools that Kreider has, but right now, it appears that he is a bit of a one-trick pony.
Blueshirt Banter's own Nick Mercadante summed up Kreider excellently the other day:
Kreider plays a rock head north south game and has trouble playing without the puck. It's as simple as that.
By no means is this Kreider's ultimate destiny as an NHL player, he is still just 23 years old, but right now it appears that he is most dangerous on the rush or in front of the net, which is hardly a surprise because that is where he can utilize his best assets- his strength and speed. As Nick pointed out, Kreider needs to work on what he does on the attack when he doesn't have the puck and he needs to learn how to use his size to create havoc in the dangerous scoring areas on the ice. If Kreider places himself in dangerous scoring areas, he'll draw attention and create time and space for his teammates. It seems like Kreider benefits from playing with players like Mats Zuccarello who can feed him the puck on the rush and around the net, but he needs to learn how to create his own offense with greater efficiency and he certainly has the physical tools to do so. The question is whether or not the mental tools are there.
So, Where's the Offense?
A big part of Kreider's recent slump might have something to do with the Rangers' inability to create offense out of their own zone. The break out passing has been absolutely atrocious lately, which probably has a lot to do with Dan Boyle and Ryan McDonagh missing significant time and being more than a little bit rusty. Without anyone to send Kreider into the offensive zone with speed with a great lead pass or, as we have seen a dozen times now, a bank pass off the boards that he can get to before the defender, a big part of Kreider's offensive game just isn't there. Hopefully this break between games will be enough for Ryan McDonagh to get back into the swing of things and for Dan Boyle to shake of his flu-like symptoms, because the Rangers need to make their speed a weapon like they were doing early in the season and Kreider is a big part of that.
Is it Time for a Suit?
The question the Rangers' coaching staff should be asking is whether or not it is time to move Kreider down in the lineup or even put him in the press box for a game or two, especially with all of the forwards that are hungry for ice time and eager for a chance to prove themselves. Obviously, we'd rather have an ice cold Kreider in the lineup than someone like Tanner Glass, but perhaps it's time to give someone like Carl Hagelin or Lee Stempniak a more featured role in the Rangers' offense and have Kreider play on the Kevin Hayes line against lesser competition to get his confidence back. Hayes' patience with the puck and size might work well with Kreider if they both attack the net and work with the history and chemistry they developed at Boston College.
Kreider is the kind of player you want to be patient with, you want to give him plenty of rope because he's among the most exciting Rangers prospects in years. He has all the tools to be a very special player and a great goal scorer, but when the goals aren't there and when the coaching staff has given him less than fourteen minutes of ice time over the past two games, even the patience for a guy like Kreider has to run out. There's nothing wrong with moving him around in the lineup and letting him go up against some lesser competition or even having him sit for a game or two, but perhaps this long break will be a benefit for him and the other Rangers' forwards that just can't seem to buy a goal right now.
The Rangers are clinging to the production of Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Derick Brassard like it's a life preserver and they're bobbing around on the open ocean. The Blueshirts need to find some depth scoring in the lineup in a big, bad way and Chris Kreider is one of those guys that needs to start producing. How long can Rick Nash keep up this pace? How long can Marty St. Louis stay this hot? When they go through scoring slumps of their own, the Rangers are going to be craving offensive consistency and when that happens, we can only hope that Kreider will be back on his game, no matter where he is in the Rangers' lineup.
What do you guys think of Kreider's recent struggles? Time to move him around in the lineup? Scratch him? What is the best way to use someone like Kreider?
Let's go Rangers.