If Chris Kreider plays his cards correctly, he could piggyback off his NCAA Frozen Four Championship with an even bigger title, the Stanley Cup.
College accolades are great, but it what matters now is the pro ranks for Kreider and his New York Rangers, the team that drafted him 19th overall in the 2009 draft.
With a 3-1 win at home against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, the Rangers jumped out to a 1-0 series lead, and looked a lot more like the team that dominated the Eastern Conference in the regular season.
Kreider scored the go-ahead goal for New York at 7:00 of the third period, a blistering slap shot past Braden Holtby, who had attempted to cut down the angle on the Rangers rookie.
Game 2 is slated for Monday evening at the intersection of 34th and 7th avenue in New York City as the Capitals look to steal one on the road and garner the all-important road split.
Here's a look at the keys to the second stanza of the Capitals and Rangers Eastern Conference Semifinal series:
For the Rangers
The old adage "keep on, keepin' on" seems extremely imperative for New York as it approaches Game 2 tonight. The win in Game 1 was a complete team victory, of course led by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers holding the Caps to just 18 shots, shutting them down four times on the power play and getting goal scoring from big names were the keys to success on Saturday. A similar effort will give the Rangers more than enough for a firm 2-0 series lead.
For the Capitals
Managing just 18 shots in a game—a mere five of them combined from Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin—will never be enough for the Capitals to overcome the Rangers, especially in the playoffs. Instead, the Caps must come in waves, both physically and offensively, and force the Rangers back on their heels. Lundqvist must be peppered with shots and the Capitals must convert power play opportunities to win.
X Factors That Will Lead to Victory For Both Teams
The Rangers must manage two scenarios tonight. Primarily, the Capitals will come hard and fast, not wanting to go down 2-0 in the series. New York must weather that storm early (and potentially often) and then capitalize on offense chances when they are presented.
Secondly, do the Rangers get goal scoring from their big stars? Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan must score goals if this team is going to win this series and continually progress toward the Cup.
For the Capitals, it begins and ends with one player: Alexander Ovechkin. It's been a strange postseason for the Russian superstar, whose playing time and offensive output are down. If his offensive and physical game, both of which are spurned on by the other, are quiet tonight, then the Capitals will exit the postseason quietly. The Capitals defense has been good, Braden Holtby exceptional and now it's time for Mr. Ovechkin to bring his game to the next level.
Capitals win 4-3 in a most spirited affair.
Who do you think will win? Comment Below!
Ryan O'Leary is a writer and researcher for Bleacher Report's Video Production Department with seven years of experience in sports media.