JIM: My last and lasting image of Chris Kreider from 2013-14 was his intense reaction after tying Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in LA, a power play goal late in the second period which knotted things up at the time, 1-1. Big Game Kreider coming up big again when the team needed it, its back to the wall and their Cup dream facing an end. That's a long way from where Kreider started the year, sent to Hartford after training camp and forced to be on the outside looking in when the Rangers opened up in Phoenix. He would be recalled shortly thereafter and never really looked back posting a solid 17-goal, 20-assist, 37-point rookie campaign--cut short to 66 games due to a late-season broken hand. Kreider was in Calder Trophy consideration until getting hurt, and was missed terribly--especially on the power play, and especially over the first ten games of the playoffs--while he was out hurt. Kreider provided the Rangers something they really lacked on the roster: a big, physical, powerful forward who was unafraid to use his speed and size to his considerable advantage. He also scores off the rush, and is an immovable object in front of the other team's goalie. Brian Boyle would jokingly refer to Kreider as a man-child, and in a way that assessment is on the spot. Kreider ascended to a top-line role, and only defensive miscues and ill-timed penalties curtailed his time with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. It was a solid first (almost) full year in the NHL for the Rangers 2009 first rounder.
MATT: After the season he had, it's a little difficult to remember that he did in fact start the season in Hartford, which I remember was a little bit of a shock to everyone, including myself. But pros bounce back, and that's exactly what he did. I credit his attitude for bringing him back quickly, and having him remain with the Rangers the rest of the season. He's just so positive and he's always trying to get better, something some younger players struggle with, especially those like Kreider who had such success out of the gate in the NHL. Kreider is such a special kind of player, mixing size and speed into something awesome. He just brings an element to the team that they sorely miss when he isn't around, which was evident in the playoffs when he missed the entire first round against Philadelphia and half of the second round against the Penguins. We have to remember that Kreider essentially just finished his rookie season in the NHL, meaning his best and brightest days are still on the horizon.