‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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He’s in, he’s out, he’s in. John Tortorella kept his cards close to his chest when interviewed by Rangers’ play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen on MSG’s pre-game show.
The rest of the hockey world continued guessing whether Chris Kreider would make his Rangers’ debut Monday night at Scotiabank Place. Tortorella didn’t tip his hand during warm-ups. Kreider and John Scott alternated skating alongside fourth liners Derek Stepan and John Mitchell. It appeared he wouldn’t play after the official NHL rosters listed Kreider as a healthy scratch.
Suddenly, as MSG shifted to commercial, Al Trautwig quickly announced that Scott was scratched. Kreider was set to make his NHL debut under the pressure of a feverent playoff-charged atmosphere in front of 20,182 fans packed inside Scotiabank Place.
Tortorella inserted Kreider on the left-wing of the Rangers’ top line alongside superstars Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. Instantly, Kreider’s career game log went from winning the Frozen Four NCAA championship with Boston College straight into an intensity-filled NHL playoff series.
Immediately, he showed the world class speed and pure skating ability that scouts have been raving about for years. He hit a few rough patches but that is to be expected for any 20-year-old player making his debut, especially in playoffs.
Kreider’s defensive rawness was apparent and he looked a little shy to body his opponents. In time, he’ll figure out how to use his 6’3”, 230 lbs. frame to his advantage.
He was lucky to escape a high-sticking non-call with 7 minutes remaining in the second period. With 17 seconds left before the second intermission, he had an opportunity to etch his name into Rangers’ lore by scoring on his debut but the puck tricked wide of his stick as he hovered over Senators’ goalie Craig Anderson.
Kreider spent the third period watching from the bench and finished the game with 11:11 in total ice time. Tortorella opted to run three lines in the third period and observing the action will benefit to Kreider should he be called upon in Game 4. He spoke with Andrew Gross of The Record:
“What it takes to win at this level,” Kreider said. “More than anything, how the guys have bought into this series. It’s a winning brand of hockey and I was able to see that from the bench,” he explained to Gross.
Final Analysis: It appears that Kreider is further up to speed with his offensive game than his defensive game. Learning the finer points of playing sound, defensive hockey is something that takes years. Tortorella isn’t expecting too much from Kreider right away but he’s fortunate to be surrounded by veteran forwards like Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Mike Rupp.
Tortorella came away impressed by what he saw from Kreider. “That’s a (heck) of a spot we’re putting the kid in. He certainly shows he can skate in the league, we know that… There are some things he needs to work on, but he’s in a (heck) of a spot, so I’m really happy with the way he played,” he stated post-game.
Kreider strikes me as a kid with a good head of his shoulders and will wisely soak up all he can from his experienced teammates and throw himself wholeheartedly into practice drills. The future is indeed be bright for this promising younger.
How did Kreider fare in his Rangers’ debut? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.