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Rangers’ Chris Kreider is grateful for his return to the playoffs

Chris Kreider knew nothing else. He made his NHL debut in game three of the first round of the 2012 playoffs for the black-and-blueshirt team that advanced to the conference finals. Two years later, he and the Rangers were in the finals of the Stanley Cup. The Presidents’ Trophy followed a year later. There were six trips to the playoffs in the first six seasons of Kreider’s career.

“I joined a team that was one of the best teams in the league. I was a young man trying to make it in that lineup and I probably took it for granted,” Kreider said after scoring his 48th and 49th goals in Saturday’s 5-1 triumph over the Senators, who secured Rangers first place in the playoffs since 2017. “It’s a very tough league to win in, there are no easy games or easy nights and to be one of the top teams in the league after 82 games is a privilege and that’s something the lads should be proud of.”

That win came in Game 73, which is the club’s second-fastest since the hard cap was introduced in 2005–06. Only the club that finished runners-up in 2011/12 were faster, by a game. The 2014-15 First-Overall Blueshirts also won in Game 73.

That team made a playoff spot on October 18 by winning the fourth game of the season in Toronto and never fell below the cut line.

The stakes are higher in the regular season as the Blueshirts now share first place in the Metropolitan Division with Carolina. The Hurricanes have a game on their hands that they will catch up against the Ducks on Sunday before heading to the Garden for a confrontation on Tuesday.

Chris Kreider celebrates after scoring his second goal in Rangers' 5-1 playoff win over Senators.
Chris Kreider celebrates after scoring his second goal in Rangers’ 5-1 playoff win over Senators.
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“We’re going to enjoy this tonight,” Kreider said. “But we will keep pushing.”

Rangers danced around the word “mandate” pretty much from day one of training camp, even though there was an unequivocal mandate to return to the tournament that was communicated last May with the hiring of Chris Drury as president-general manager in the wake of the layoffs by John Davidson Jeff Gorton. Then of course Gerard Gallant was brought in to replace David Quinn behind the bench.

Yes, making the playoffs was a goal. Yes, that was a common goal. Yes, it was actually an order.

“I’m not going to start talking [a mandate] now,” Ryan Strome said, chuckling. “But everyone knew the feeling. I think we got it.

“Look at our squad, you have some of the best players in the world, some young talent, probably the best goalkeeper in the world. It’s time. And we have taken that first step.

Chris Kreider (right) hugs Mika Zibanejad after Rangers' playoff win.
Chris Kreider (right) hugs Mika Zibanejad after Rangers’ playoff win.
USA TODAY sports

“It feels good tonight. Obviously there is emotion, the building was unreal and there was tremendous energy in the crowd. It’s a good feeling the way the last few years have gone, it’s going to be fun for the next few weeks, fun for the next few months. We are up for the challenge.”

This clincher was a one-sided affair, with the Blueshirts simply outclassing an overpowered opponent playing the string. Shot attempts were 31-5 for the first period. Senators looked very similar to Rangers in the final weeks of say 2017-18 and 2018-19.

But Rangers are on the other side of the mirror now. Her rebuilding was announced in The Letter in February 2018, which predicted the 2018 and 2019 deadlines. But the rebuild, as Kreider noted from the podium on Saturday, became a “reload” when the club signed Artemi Panarin on a seven-year free agent, $81.5 million contract on July 1, 2019. With those strokes of the pen the Rangers accelerated the program dramatically.

Panarin was one of the great free-agent signings in professional sports history. Russia’s Rockette, spectacular in this instance with a goal and two assists, has 241 points (70-71) in 179 games as a Ranger. His 1.35 points per game is fourth in the NHL behind fellow luminaries Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Nathan MacKinnon. That’s the company Panarin will keep as he makes the playoffs for the fourth time.

“The team is making progress,” said Panarin. “But obviously the dream wasn’t fully realized.”

He spoke about the Stanley Cup.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/10/rangers-chris-kreider-grateful-to-be-returning-back-to-playoffs/ Rangers’ Chris Kreider is grateful for his return to the playoffs

JOE HERNANDEZ

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