As dangerous as Chris Kreider has been on the power play this season, especially in front of the net, the 30-year-old winger credits the rest of the Rangers’ first man-advantage unit for developing the art of getting him the puck.
Particularly Artemi Panarin, who Kreider said he believes is one of the best in the world at misdirecting opponents.
Kreider quickly realized he was far from the first NHL player who had to up his game to keep up with Panarin. He and his former Boston College teammate Cam Atkinson, who also played with Panarin for two seasons in Columbus, actually bonded over their adjustment to playing with an elite talent like the Russian winger.
“He’s an incredible player and scores a lot of goals, but he had his best year playing with Arty,” Kreider said of Atkinson after practice on Monday. “[We] talked a little bit about just getting comfortable — or not comfortable — but getting used to getting yourself to spots and being ready for the puck when he didn’t necessarily think he was going to get the puck.
“Arty is so good at hitting you with misdirection, there’s been a lot of times over the last few years where I’m kind of standing up straight and all of a sudden [the puck’s] in between my legs. If I was ready for it, I probably would’ve had a better opportunity. I mean he’s hard to read, that’s what makes him such a good player. Sometimes he’s even hard to read for us.
“So just constantly being ready when he has the puck, but that also applies to Ryan Strome, to Adam Fox and to Mika [Zibanejad]. Those guys are so incredible looking one way and putting the puck right where you are.”
A majority of Kreider’s goals this season have come off tip-ins around the blue paint or a redirection off a pinpoint feed, skills Kreider has said he’s worked on mastering his entire career. Panarin has assisted on six of Kreider’s team-leading nine power-play goals, which is second in the league behind only the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl.
Kreider is the only lefty shot currently featured on the Rangers’ first power-play unit with Strome, Panarin, Zibanejad and Fox. The longest tenured Ranger, however, believes that playing with all righties has made it a bit easier to familiarize himself with where on the ice he’ll likely be set up for a scoring opportunity.
“They’re going to put the puck right on your tape, even if they’re not looking at you, it’s like a sixth sense,” he said. “It’s an incredible skill.”
The Rangers’ power play is currently ranked 12th in the league, having capitalized on 12 of 59 for a 20.3 percentage this season. Kreider has logged a team-high 68:16 on the man-advantage. When outscoring an opponent on special teams this season, the Rangers are 5-0-1.
To Kreider, the key to getting consistent offense from the power play is to continue developing the chemistry among the members of his unit.
“I think it’s the most important thing,” Kreider said. “You see the most successful power plays in the league are groups that have been together for years. With ups and downs, there’s that familiarity, confidence that even if pucks aren’t going in, these are things that we do well that give us success. So we stick with that process.”