Chris Kreider was thrown into the NHL fire beginning with Game 3 of the New York Rangers' opening round series with the Ottawa Senators. Just weeks removed from winning a national championship with Boston College, the 21-year old Kreider has been given a crash course on professional hockey quickly understanding the highs -- two goals in New York's first two series, both game-winners -- and the lows -- seeing his ice time limited in Games 4, 5 and 6 against the Washington Capitals after a couple of defensive lapses.
Monday night during Game 1 against the New Jersey Devils, the roller coaster began to angle back upward as Kreider scored his third goal of the playoffs as the Rangers celebrated a 3-0 victory:
Kreider was benched in Game 4 of the second round against the Washington Capitals, but it was a punishment that served him well. Having the rookie watch the action from the bench was a good learning tool forcing him to re-focus despite the magnitude of these games at the start of his career.
"The last thing I want to do is settle in," said Kreider after Game 1. "I don't want to get complacent, especially at this level. If I get complacent for a second, next thing you know I'm minus-2 and giving [Alex] Ovechkin a one-timer in the slot."
Rangers head coach John Tortorella could have easily continued to limit Kreider's minutes, but there's a reason why they decided to throw a rookie into the lineup in the middle of the first round. To Kreider's credit, he's continued to give Tortorella reasons to give him the ice time in order to succeed.
"I think he's been responsible away from the puck," said Tortorella. "He's been consistently understanding how we have to play. We want him to be instinctive and I think he's done a good job of that, as far chasing down things, shooting the puck. Obviously a quick release tonight on his goal. He's played well."
Kreider is just 13 games into his NHL career and despite all of the ups and downs so far, he's not allowing himself to get caught up in the hoopla of it all.
"It's surreal, but it's not something I'm focusing on. I'm just worried about the next game," said Kreider.
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