Chris Kreider is the only remnant of the Rangers roster from the last time the club played the Penguins in the playoffs six years ago.
That was a different era for the Blueshirts, who were then in their sixth straight postseason and failed to win the Stanley Cup just two seasons earlier. Kreider was 25 and in his fourth NHL season. He scored two goals in five games against Pittsburgh in what turned out to be the Rangers’ earliest elimination from the playoffs in five years.
“I probably took it for granted,” Kreider said just over three weeks ago after Rangers secured a playoff berth with nine games remaining in the regular season.
The Rangers play Game 1 of their first-round series against the Penguins Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, and in some ways that marked a new era – one to which Kreider is still very attached. He has gone from a fledgling Boston College product just trying to fit into an established Rangers team to a seasoned competitor who has been the focus of a new generation.
And after Kreider signed a seven-year, $45.5 million extension with the Rangers in February 2020, Kreider is expected to play a significant role in this next chapter in the franchise’s history.
Aside from the three qualifying round matches during the 2020 Bubble Playoffs, the last postseason contest Kreider competed in was on May 9, 2017, in the second round against the Senators. He had three goals and one assist in 12 games against the Canadiens and the Senators.
Less than a year later, in February 2018, the infamous conversion letter was sent.
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Kreider watched as his teammates were carted off one by one during that 2017-18 campaign. Ryan McDonagh. Rick Nash. J T Miller. Nick Holden. Michael Grabner. Ryan Graves. The next season was similar as Rangers traded Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Neal Pionk and Ryan Spooner for a plethora of draft picks and players like Adam Fox, Ryan Strome and Jacob Trouba.
Both seasons ended without playoff placements in early April as Rangers revamped their roster and stocked their potential closets.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s exciting,” Kreider said when asked about his personal emotions ahead of Round 1. “That’s what you play 82 for, to get an opportunity to play in the playoffs, play in those rounds, play in those games. We’ve played a certain way and tried to play a certain way for the last 82 games and that shouldn’t change for us now.”
At the other end of the ice there will be plenty of familiar faces for Kreider, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang topping the list. The Penguins are a different team, however, as are the Rangers.
Kreider is now someone else too. The player with the third highest number of goals in the NHL this season.
“That’s what happens when you make the playoffs,” Kreider said with a grin. “You tend to see the same teams from your division [who are] does it year after year. Apparently they’ve been around pretty much every year since I’ve turned pro and been in New York. Every team looks a little bit different every year, but I think there are still some things that they love to do that are similar to what has made them successful in years past.”
https://nypost.com/2022/05/03/nhl-playoffs-2022-chris-kreider-the-bridge-to-new-rangers-era/ Chris Kreider the bridge to the new Rangers era