Monday, May 14, 2012

ASHMORE: Future is now for Kreider

For The Trentonian
NEW YORK - It's almost scary to think about how good Chris Kreider could be one day.
But Rangers fans will certainly take what they're getting from him right now.
A month ago, he was helping lead Boston College to another NCAA championship.
Now? He may very well be the unlikely hero in a potential Stanley Cup run.
For both Kreider and the Rangers, it's never been more apparent that the future is now.
The 20-year-old didn't get to play a regular season game for New York, instead jumping right into the first round series against Ottawa.
After some early struggles, Kreider has been rewarded by being moved onto the second line, and in turn rewarded head coach John Tortorella with a goal and an assist in the Rangers 3-0 win over the Devils on Monday night.

Chris Kreider has gone from college hero to Rangers folk hero.

Not bad for a guy who had to not only hadn't played more than 38 games in a season - Monday was his 56th overall - and had to learn the Rangers system on the fly.
"He's been consistently understanding of how we have to play," Tortorella said. "You want it to be instinctive, and I think he's done a really good job of that as far as chasing down things, shooting
the puck and obviously the quick release tonight on his goal. He's played well."
To say he's played well is a bit of an understatement, but that's to be expected given his coach's well-documented demeanor. What wasn't a given was the humility Kreider showed after the game, addressing a throng of reporters in a voice that barely registered over a whisper, a voice that was hesitant to pat the rising star responsible for it on the back.
"The last thing I want to do is settle in," Kreider said.
"I don't want to get complacent, especially at this level. If I get complacent, the next thing you know I'm minus-2 and giving Ovechkin a one-timer in the slot. I have got to stay extremely focused."
And, perhaps despite the way Kreider might want it, the focus was solely on him after the game, despite a stellar performance by Henrik Lundqvist and strong defensive play by Ryan McDonagh, among others.
For example, Mike Rupp is in his ninth season and has a Stanley Cup-clinching goal on his resume. And yet, he's never seen anything quite like Broadway's newest star.
"I don't think I've seen a kid come to a team this late in general," said Rupp, when asked if he'd seen a college or junior player make this kind of impact this late in a season.
"It's a tough situation, but he's a good kid and he's got a good head on his shoulders. He came in here and wanted to earn everything. He works hard, and he's got the tools. He's learning as we go along here, but I think he's done a really good job. He came through for us big tonight."
While speed has been the name of the game for Kreider -- as well as fellow rookie teammate Carl Hagelin -- his shot is often overlooked, surprising given that the Rangers' 2009 first round draft choice tallied 49 goals over three collegiate campaigns.
"He's got a lethal shot and if he gets a second to get it off, scary things can happen," said McDonagh.
"We just told him to keep moving his feet and keep moving his legs and get in on the forecheck. Him and Hags are key guys for us and it's great for him to score that goal."
On a star-studded team that inarguably has its best chance to win a Stanley Cup since 1994, Chris Kreider may have been the piece the team was missing all along. Just not if you ask him.
"I was just thinking about coming in and keeping my head down and working hard," Kreider said, reporters leaning in to try to hear every barely audible word.
But if Kreider continues making the unprecedented impact - not just on the Rangers, but any team - he has, he'll have 18,200 fans in red, white and blue wondering how he looks next to some silver.
And not just for now, but for years to come.


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