If the hockey gods were to build the perfect hockey player, New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider would come close to the ideal specimen. The 6-foot-3, 226-pound Boxford, M.A. native has a body chiseled from stone. He skates with explosion, shrugs aside opponents like rag dolls and packs a cannon shot.
Kreider’s potential appears to be limitless. He torched the Ottawa Senators throughout Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory at Madison Square Garden. His seven shots tied a career-high. At 2:42 of the second period, Kreider streaked past Sens defenseman Jared Cowen in a blur to receive a Marc Staal lead pass and slammed the puck past Sens goaltender Craig Anderson.
“When he plays like that, with his speed, it’s hard to stop that guy,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “I see it in practice every day, coming down the wing and he’s big and strong — and so fast. It’s tough for a defender. He has a great shot as well. It was a great game for him. I felt a lot of guys played really well, but he really stood out.”
Kreider has caught fire of late, collecting nine points (five goals, four assists) over the past ten games. He extended his point streak to three games in Tuesday’s victory.
It seems like Kreider has been around forever. His memorable game-winning goals against the Senators and the Washington Capitals during his debut playoff campaign in 2012 feels like ages ago. It’s easy to forget that Kreider is still a 23-year-old kid learning the subtleties of the game.
One veteran Kreider has studied closely is 39-year-old Martin St. Louis.
“He does wonders for the young guys and for the locker room in general,” Kreider told WFAN.com earlier this season. “He’s so helpful. When I was growing up, I had a Marty St. Louis poster in my bedroom. It was very cool for me when he came over. As an opponent, you see the player, but you didn’t realize what a good person he is.”
Kreider is inspired by St. Louis’ burning desire and fierce love of the game. It takes a lot to drag St. Louis off the practice ice. These good habits are rubbing off on Kreider and a collection of Rangers youngsters.
“He’s a kid out there,” Kreider said. “This is his passion. He’s going to get off the ice when they kick him off the ice. That’s fun. That’s something he instills in a lot of guys. It’s great to see.”
Kreider will be a player to watch once the Rangers return from the All-Star break. on Jan. 27 against the rival Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. He knows that every point matters in the Metropolitan Division race. The first-place Isles lead the third-place Rangers by five points, though the Rangers have two games in hand.
Only six points separate first and fourth place in the Metro Division. The Rangers have won 16 of 19 but cannot afford to slip in the second half. Kreider is focused on keeping things rolling in the right direction.
“It feels like everyone else is winning,” Kreider said. “You can’t drop a game like that, can’t lose a close one. That was huge for us. Every time you look at the scoreboard, it’s like people in our division are winning so you have to keep pace.”