As news slowly started surfacing yesterday that Chris Kreider could miss a month or more with a hand injury, New York Rangers fans were very much like sharks with blood in the water. They were circling every beat reporter, blog and talking head waiting for some clarification for the tweet that was deleted then re-posted by TSN insider Bob McKenzie.
The news was bad. Kreider's hand was injured, no one knew how bad it was but he was expected to be out a long time. A month, maybe more. The team confirmed Kreider's injury, but only to the point of him missing tonight's enormous tilt with the Philadelphia Flyers. Beyond that, there was silence.
We can speculate all we want about the severity of the injury. The reality of the situation is we know as much as everyone else knows, little to nothing. Some people found a replay on MSG of Kreider flexing his hand between the second and third period in the Rangers' huge win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday. Couple that with Kreider seeing only three shifts in the third period -- with a shortened bench no less -- and you can put the pieces together yourself. He's injured, we just don't know how bad.
It's moments like these when you see the bigger picture of the Rangers NHL Trade Deadline. Martin St. Louis wasn't only brought in to provide a secondary lethal finisher to the Rangers' lineup, he was also brought in as a form of insurance. If Kreider is in fact out long term, he takes his 17 goals and 20 assists in 66 games with him.
Here's the semi-good news. The Rangers don't have more than two dominant goal scorers (Rick Nash has 23 in 56 games and St. Louis has 29 in 73 games) but they do have a plethora of secondary scorers. Want to know what Brad Richards, Derick Brassard, Carl Hagelin and Kreider all have in common? They have 17 goals this year. Each and every one of them.
Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello have 15. Ryan McDonagh has 13 and Benoit Pouliot has 12. That's 10 double-digit goal scorers on the roster. Sure, there have been times when they haven't been able to find the back of the net, but the Rangers are getting scoring from a lot of places.
Losing Kreider does hurt. You take him off the first or second line (Alain Vigneault has been jumbling things up of late, so it's hard to pinpoint exactly where he's been playing) and it leaves a big hole. Zuccarello and Hagelin have found their games again since their respective post-Olympic struggles, which is a good thing. Brassard is also getting red-hot, which is a good thing. There are pieces in place to help fill the void Kreider leaves, they just have to make sure they're filling it.
The one thing you can't replace with Kreider is his speed and physicality. He's a rare blend of shockingly fast and tremendous size. His forechecking ability has been underrated this year, and he always impacts a game with his body, even if he's not scoring. The speed that backs defenders off and gives more room to guys like Nash and Stepan won't be there with him gone, so there might be a transition period, but no team is successful without clearing some hurdles.
Let's just hope they don't have to clear these for very long.