In a big way the suspension on Carl Hagelin for his elbow to the head of Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson changed the playoff fortunes of the New York Rangers. The incident that occurred in Game Two and took Hagelin out of the next three Rangers playoff games was supposed to slow down the New York offense. Instead, it introduced the hockey world to Chris Kreider.
Kreider was forced into action as a result of the Hagelin suspension and has so far played brilliantly for the Rangers. In Game Six of the Ottawa series with New York facing elimination, Kreider scored on a pass from Derek Stepan in the last minute of the second period to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Thanks an Ottawa goal in desperation time, Kreider’s tally would stand as the official game-winning goal.
The rookie’s heroics did not end there, however. In Game Seven, Kreider stole the puck away from Ottawa forward Nick Foligno to start an odd man rush that ended with a Marc Staal goal that gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Then, in Game One versus Washington, Kreider took a long pass from Stepan and drove the puck past Washington goaltender Braden Holtby to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
That’s three games in a row that a rookie who wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup has played a pivotal role in. If hockey was nearly as popular as basketball, Kreider would be a Jeremy Lin-type legend right now, but instead he’s only revered by Rangers fans. I’m sure the kid will take that, but with the way he’s come straight out of college to rescue the Rangers in the playoffs, all of New York should know Kreider’s name.
That’s saying something, considering that before he was put in the lineup, not even most of the Rangers knew what Kreider was capable of.
“Honestly I didn’t know much about him,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. “I knew Steps (Stepan) and Mac (Ryan McDonagh) knew a few things about him, but I didn’t know he was built like a Mack truck and could skate like the wind. We’re pretty happy to have him on our team right now.”
Isn’t this the kind of story that everyone loves? From nameless rookie to toast of the town, all in a fortnight. Of course, the story won’t gain any serious steam nationally until the Rangers make it farther into the playoffs. They can take a big step towards that goal with a win tonight at MSG in Game Two.
Joe Fortunato of Blueshirt Banter says the Rangers need to get more shots on goal tonight than they did in Game One.
And although the Rangers got the win, which was certianly the first priority, there were some issues which need to be worked out. For starters, the Rangers only managed 14 shots on net — yes, three of them went in — but more often than not that isn’t the case.
It’s not that the Rangers’ offense was ineffective either, they just didn’t seem to get through the Capitals’ defense enough to create more scoring chances. With that being said, I thought the Rangers had quality scoring chances all game, they were just very spread out.
It’s true that not only all scoring chances result in even a shot on goal, but regardless New York needs to challenge Holtby a little more tonight. If nothing else, more shots on goal leads to more rebounds, which leads to more open nets. With a 1-0 lead in the series, the Rangers shouldn’t be shy about putting the pressure on Holtby tonight.