Fantasy and reality: Chris Kreider’s process
“We’re in a fantasy football league together,” Chris Kreider said with a laugh after the Connecticut Whale beat the Hershey Bears 3-1 on Oct. 26.
Such is life for the Rangers’ wonder kid. Instead of getting donuts and lugging bags, he’s beating everyone to James Jones on the waiver wire. It’s a far cry from the NHL-ready skill set he flashed last spring and it’s fair to wonder if starting in Hartford over Broadway stuck with him.
On that Friday night, Kreider spent much of the first period drifting, so much so that one person wondered if he would have been better off carrying an ad banner than a hockey stick.
But then the second period started and suddenly the fresh-out-of-college phenom that took the Stanley Cup playoffs by storm was on display again. And as the period ticked to a close, Kreider worked his way into a short-handed 2-on-1 deep in the Hershey zone with Ryan Bourque on his flank — Kreider’s best scoring chance of the night. Except Kreider hesitated, the defenseman closed off the passing lane and Kreider was in too close to get a backhand over the goalie’s shoulder.
“It was not the right play in retrospect. I could have moved it to (Bourque) early. I could’ve shot it far blocker. Those were my two options,” Kreider said, knowing he missed a chance. ” … I had it on my backhand and I thought the goalie was leaning so I tried to push it wide and get it upstairs. I should’ve just shot it. I overthought it.”
The next night, Kreider found the open net from a sharp angle for his first regular season pro goal, but it was his sparkling one-handed, reach-around-the-defenseman assist to Christian Thomas that stole the show.
Goal, assist and or missed opportunity — it’s all part of the learning curve as Kreider adjusts to being a full-time pro. With a jaw-dropping combination of size and speed, he has the raw tools that few can fathom, but the former BC Eagle knows that’s not enough anymore.
“These guys are bigger, they’re stronger and they’re meaner,” Kreider said. “A lot of times you think you’ve won a puck battle and they get a touch on you and next thing you know it’s a 50-50 puck again. It’s going into corners with a greater tenacity than you maybe did in college, because (in college) you know you’re bigger and faster than guys so you’re gonna come away with pucks.”
And so it goes. While Henrik Lundqvist sits at the bargaining table and Rick Nash plies his craft in Sweden, Kreider skates among less-talented men in the AHL, tweaking this and strengthening that, hoping he’s ready when Broadway finally calls again.
Until then, he’ll have to settle for fantasy football.
“Up until this past couple weeks, (I’ve been) pretty bad, but (I’m) starting to figure it out,” Kreider said.
It’s a process.