There are just 11 games remaining in the 2021-22 National Hockey League (NHL) season for the New York Rangers and Head coach Gerard Gallant’s team are two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes in the race for first place in the Metropolitan Division title. While the team is pursuing home-ice advantage for the playoffs that will start in May, one of their most outstanding players, Chris Kreider is chasing the franchise record for goals in a single season. Will either reach their respective goals?
Kreider’s Quest for Jagr’s 54 Goal-Mark
The 2021-22 regular season has been Kreider’s best since the 30-year-old joined the original-six franchise in 2012. The strong, 230-pound left-winger had flirted with 30 goals before during his career but that has all changed this year, under the guidance of Gallant’s new coaching staff. During the Rangers’ 3-1 win over their cross-river rivals, New Jersey, on Apr. 5, Kreider scored the Rangers’ second goal, which was also his 25th power-play goal of the season. This broke the franchise record of 24 power-play goals which was set by Jaromir Jagr during the 2005-06 season. Jagr, who was the Rangers captain from 2005 to 2008, was in third place on the all-time goals list before Alex Ovechkin passed him on Mar. 15, 2022.
For Rangers fans, ‘Kreids’ incredible offensive year is the first time they have witnessed elite scoring since Jagr set that record 16 seasons ago, but that is not the only milestone Kreider is approaching. The 224 career goals that the first-line wing has ranks 12th in Ranger’s history and with four more he will pass Bill Cook for tenth all-time. It has been a while for Rangers fans, who have dealt with the disappointment of losing in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and Henrik Lundqvist failing to win a cup. A lot has happened on Madison Square Garden’s ice during these last 15 years, but lately, Ranger fans have been feeling better about where the current team is led by defenseman Jacob Trouba, first-line center Mika Zibanejad and his linemate, Kreider are heading.
So, as things stand, Kreider has 47 goals through the first 71 games of the 2021-22 season and is just seven away from tying Jagr’s record. What will the path to 54 looks like for ‘Kreids’? It is not a yellow brick road but instead a muddy one with plenty of bumps. Those potholes resemble the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom the Rangers face tonight for the last time this regular season and the Carolina Hurricanes, who are two points ahead of the second-place Rangers and, for now, keeping the Rangers from reaching the Metropolitan division summit.
The Rangers will face the Penguins once during the rest of the season. That game is tonight at 7:00 and Kreider has scored four times against head coach Mike Sullivan’s team this year. After Apr. 7, the Rangers will travel to Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, and play the Senators. With seven upcoming games against teams that have winning records, it would be easy to underestimate this young team that is in seventh place in the Atlantic Division.
For good teams, it’s important to not ‘play down to a weaker opponent,’ which is a coaching mantra at every level. It’s also important for the Rangers to not treat a road game against a cellar-dweller any differently from how they will treat a game against the ‘Canes. In terms of team stats that indicate how well the Senators may play, you may be surprised to hear that D.J. Smith (Mike Babcock’s staff, 2015-19) has a team led by bruiser, Brady Tkachuk, sporting the league’s 12th-best penalty-kill. When down a man or two, the Sens are not much worse than the Rangers (ninth), Tampa Bay Lightning (tenth), and Washington Capitals (11th) all three of whom will make the playoffs.
This means that the Blueshirts should not underestimate the Senators, when they head up to Ottawa on Apr. 9, because they only barely beat them 3-2 in their last game at the Canadian Tire Centre. When it comes to the other teams the Rangers will play during their final 11 game-stretch, Kreider should circle Apr. 19 on his calendar. Why, you ask, well ‘Kris-py Kreme’ Kreider and the Rangers will face the Winnipeg Jets on that day, who they last played on Mar. 6. On that day, Kreider scored two goals and in the last 15 games, this was one of two multi-goal games the Rangers’ top scorer has had.
Can Chris Kreider Reach 54 Goals?
Another date that Kreider should think about is Apr. 23, 2022. This is the Rangers’ fourth-to-last game of the season, and they will face the Boston Bruins, who have surged up the standings since facing Gallant’s men on Feb. 15. The Bruins have allowed the fifth-fewest team goals during the 2021-22 season. The four teams who have allowed fewer are the New York Islanders (fourth), New York Rangers (third), Calgary Flames (second) and Carolina Hurricanes (first).
When the Rangers face strong defensive teams like the Hurricanes (Apr. 14 and 26) and Bruins, Kreider will have a tougher time scoring goals, but this constitutes just four of the remaining 11 games on the Rangers schedule. From Apr. 13-19, the Blueshirts will face the Detroit Red Wings at home, the Philadelphia Flyers on the road, and the Winnipeg Jets in Canada. The Jets are not a terrible team but Kreider did own them on Mar. 6 when he lit the lamp twice in their barn.
The Rangers’ top goalscorer has not destroyed either the Red Wings or Flyers this season, but he does have one in two games against Detroit and two in three against Philly. This means that these three games will be a great opportunity, to quote the former U.S. Olympic gold-winning coach, Herb Brooks, for Kreids to add three or more goals to his season total. If he can get three from these games that mean, there are still five games remaining. One of these is on Apr. 21 against the New York Islanders, who beat the Rangers the last two times but are still a team that Kreider could score against.
It may be interesting during the last two games of the season. Both are home games against two teams, the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals who struggle defensively. On top of that, Kreids has been able to score two goals against both Montreal and Washington this season, in the two games he has played against each opponent. Time will tell if the fast and strong winger from Boxford, Massachusetts will surpass two great Rangers, Adam Graves and Jaromir Jagr by scoring more than they were able to in one regular season in the 95 years that have passed since the New York Rangers were founded in 1926.
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