Report: Kreider hits 50 goal plateau

He did it. On Tuesday night, Chris Kreider became the 4th Ranger in franchise history to score 50 goals in one season. He joined elite company when he slid a rebound past Frederik Andersen of the Carolina Hurricanes to bring the Rangers within one late in the third period. The Blueshirts would lose the game 4-2, but the story of the night was Kreider. The 11-year veteran’s name will be etched in Ranger’s lore next to Vic Hadfield (1971-72), Adam Graves (1993-94), and Jaromir Jágr (2005-06) as the only Rangers to ever score 50 goals in one season. Hadfield and Graves’ retired jersey banners have been suspended over the ice at MSG, watching Kreider close in on them all season, and the magic continued Tuesday night. The Boxford, Mass native is tied with Hadfield at 50. With eight games left, he needs two more to tie Graves and four more to tie Jágr.

It’s fitting that Kreider should have this mystical season, as he is the only holdover from the previous regime of Rangers who got so close to hockey’s ultimate prize only to fall face-first on the Garden ice. Like all of his former teammates, Kreider’s future with the franchise was questionable heading into the final year of his contract during the 2019-20 season. On February 24, 2020, Kreider and former Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton agreed upon a seven-year, $45.5 million contract. Seventeen days later, the NHL shut down due to COVID-19. If Kreider doesn’t sign that contract before the shutdown and the Rangers win the Alexis Lafreniere lottery six months later, perhaps they let Kreider walk away in free agency. Instead, Kreider signed and has well exceeded the expectations of his $6.5 million AAV.

Kreider also became the first American-born player to score 50 goals since… Auston Matthews did it a week ago. All joking aside, before Matthews clinched 50, John Leclair was the last American-born player to accomplish the feat in 1997-98 (he did it three years in a row). Kreider and Matthews become just the eleventh and twelfth Americans to do it and the first pair to do it in the same season since Leclair and Keith Tkachuk in 1996-97. Kreider’s previous career-high was 28 goals. With just eight games remaining and five goals away, can Kreider catch Jágr and set the All-Time Rangers record? If he does, he’ll essentially double his career-high this season. While it’s far from over, this should be the best statistical season of his career when it’s all said and done. The 50-goal club is nice, but sticking through and coming out the other end of a rebuild with another shot at the Cup is what Kreider has been working towards since all his friends were traded away. He may not be the official captain, but if it happens, Gary Bettman will be calling his name to come and get hockey’s ultimate prize.

While the Rangers lost to the Cane’s Tuesday night, they went toe-to-toe with one of the better teams in the east and controlled large portions of the game. There is no conciliation prize for losing, but the dramatic improvement from the way they played against the Cane’s just 24 days earlier was more than encouraging. With the loss to the Hurricanes Tuesday night, the Rangers fall four points back in the race for the Metropolitan crown. With the Penguins faltering of late, the Rangers could clinch home ice in the first round with just a few more wins. Does head coach Gerard Gallant choose to sit any of his players in preparation for the playoffs if they lock up the number two seed?

Luca Perito

Born and raised in New York. I've lived in Arizona, Maryland, Delaware, and California. Love all sports. Twitter @elbigcalzonelp -- Instagram @thebigcalzone

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