'Rangers Inside And Out'
By Sean Hartnett
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For most NHL rookies, their first career NHL goal is a small footnote that is usually forgotten. It's often an ugly deflection goal or a 'garbage goal' hacked into the back of the net.
That's not the case for 20-year-old Chris Kreider whose young career has taken an unusual path. He's yet to play a regular season game but has already scored his first career playoff goal and my goodness, what an important goal it was.
Kreider's tally gave the Rangers a 3-1 advantage going into the second intermission. It would turn out to be even more vital after the controversy following Ottawa's late third period goal which cut the Blueshirts' advantage to 3-2 with 38.4 seconds remaining.
Chris Neil appeared to obstruct Rangers' net-minder Henrik Lundqvist with his stick and then made a clear kicking motion to send the loose puck into the net. After the review by the NHL's Situation Room in Toronto, the on-ice call stood.
Lundqvist, a usually cool character was steamed and later spoke of a conspiracy when interviewed post-game.
"It's an absolute joke," Lundqvist stated to the media. "Oh my god, it scares me. It's such an obvious play, goalie interference, and a kick. And they still call it a goal? That scares me, that someone can call that. It still upsets me," he said after the game.
"Someone wants them back in the game obviously. There's no other explanation," Lundqvist concluded.
Thankfully, the Rangers held on and won 3-2. Not just for their sake but the sake of the league.
Had that not been the case, the moment would have gone down as one of the greatest controversies in NHL history. Gary Bettman must've wiped his sweaty brow in relief once the final buzzer blew. The last thing the NHL needs is another controversy.
Back to Kreider, who has been an atypical rookie in every way. You can tell that John Tortorella sees something special in this kid by the way he describes him.
Previously, I asked Tortorella after Game 6 if he had seen Kreider gaining the kind of confidence that he could take into Game 7.
"I see him getting more minutes. We're at that situation right now whether you're young, old or medium-aged, you're going to play if you're playing well," Tortorella responded.
The Rangers' head coach was then questioned about the possibility of Kreider seeing increased ice-time, "He's an interesting cat, I tell you, as far as he handles himself in this type of situation," he replied.
Tortorella definitely saw something big coming from the former Boston College standout.
Brad Richards spoke to Pat Leonard of The Daily News about Kreider's impact in Game 6. "He's so fast, a big kid, you just let him go. He's rode the momentum of what he did in college right into this," Richards explained.
The newly formed Kreider-Stepan-Callahan line has flourished from the start. Derek Stepan struggled through the first five games of the playoffs as he was yet to register a single point but once he was paired with Kreider, they struck up an immediate chemistry.
"There's been no pressure from management or anything. They just tell me to go out and play hockey," Kreider told the New York Post on Monday. "I think I'll look back on it and be extremely happy and be able to smile. But the thing that's important is we were able to come away with the win."
Stepan who showed similar promise to Kreider as a rookie in 2010, now appears to finally have his game back on-track. He assisted on Kreider's goal with a wonderful cross-ice pass to complete a three-point game.
It's certainly going to be interesting to see what these two kids can do together over the remainder of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
While walking around Madison Square Garden before Game 5, I noticed Kreider's number 20 jersey being sold at the MSG concourses. I'm expecting quite a few of these to be sold at Game 7 as Kreider has become an instant hero.
Is Kreider on the fast-track to stardom? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.
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