NHL Playoffs 2012: Chris Kreider Gives Rangers a Reason to Have Hope

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IApril 30, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers waves to the crowd after being named a star of the game in their 3 to 1 win over the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 28, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

At the trade deadline, many were easy to throw Chris Kreider's name into trade negotiations and it is safe to say that those same people are happy that Kreider is still here. 

Kreider is an enigma who couldn't have emerged at a better time. When Carl Hagelin felt the cold swift justice of Brendan Shanahan's ban-hammer, it presented an opportunity for Kreider. 

Six games later, Kreider has been a breath of fresh air and he became the only player in NHL history to start his career with two playoff game-winning goals. Kreider also assisted on an insurance goal scored by Brad Richards in the third period of the Rangers' 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

With Kreider in the lineup, the Rangers can dress two top-scoring lines that have a balance of skill, speed and finesse. The top line featuring Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik has been together for quite some time and is a line the Rangers can depend on.

Kreider has assimilated well with his former Team USA linemate Derek Stepan and fellow countryman Ryan Callahan. This "All-American" line has been one of the Rangers' best lines as of late because of its puck possession. Kreider has been able to work pucks from around the boards, Callahan can get physical in the corners and Stepan has rediscovered his on-ice vision.

During games one through four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators, Stepan looked lost and off his game. A steady effort in Game 5 was built upon in Game 6 and Stepan assisted on Kreider's game-winning goal.

There seems to be a theme to the Rangers' recent success and Kreider has been a huge part of it. Kreider's speed, on-ice presence and work ethic make him a great fixture in John Tortorella's system.

Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record had this to say about Kreider's integration into Tortorella's system.

Coach John Tortorella said the coaching staff went over the team concept with Kreider before he began playing but, for right now, they want him playing on instincts and then, with training camp and the offseason, they’ll begin refining his game. Totortella also said his assimilation into the team was helped because the coaching staff talked to the other players about Kreider and Kreider about his new teammates, plus, the other Rangers have been so open-armed.

The best part about Kreider is that he is a level-headed kid who is taking everything in stride. As he grows he will only get better, but in six games he has really exhibited that he has the potential to be a future star.

It is not often that a player emerges with size, speed, offensive instincts and a great attitude. In a New York Times interview with Christopher Botta, Kreider had this to say:

"The entire experience is pretty overwhelming."

"This was only my sixth game, but I feel like I’ve been around a lot longer," Kreider said. "I guess it feels that way because of all the help I’ve had."

Kreider has certainly given the Rangers a shot in the arm and they will continue to ride this euphoric high as long as they can. It could last a week, a month or even longer because Kreider has shown that in the time he has been a Ranger, he came to play and to make an impact.