Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News
Chris Kreider says he was so focused on making the Rangers’ roster, he was doing more thinking, as opposed to reacting, on the ice during the preseason.
It takes one to know one, and Brad Richards saw this preseason that perhaps Chris Kreider was getting in his own way, “pretty uptight,” letting the pressure of making the team get in his head.
Told of Richards’ assessment after practice Wednesday, Kreider nodded.
“He’s right,” Kreider told the Daily News in Greenburgh. “I mean, obviously this isn’t the position I wanted to be in. I was overthinking it (in the preseason). I was thinking about doing A, B and C instead of just doing A, kind of getting in (my) own way, but that’s not an excuse. I’ve got to be mentally sharper, more cognizant of what I should be doing as a hockey player in the game. It’s one thing to work hard; it’s another thing to work smart. So that’s something I’m focusing on and hopefully I can continue doing.”
Kreider and Richards worked out together almost all of August in Connecticut. Richards said making the Rangers roster was “all (Kreider) thought about and talked about.”
“I haven’t seen too many guys work that hard away from the rink to get (themselves) ready,” Richards said. “(But) he might have pressed a little bit. He really wants it. Sometimes that can get in your way and get your head in the way, and things don’t look at smooth out there as maybe they should.”
Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images
Hoping to inject some offense into the first line, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault promotes Derek Stepan back to the Blueshirts’ top line.
Kreider didn’t make the team out of camp after auditioning early on the top line with Richards and Rick Nash. But Thursday night in Philadelphia, he will get another opportunity on the top line with Richards and center Derek Stepan, as well as time on the first power play unit.
“He knows he’s getting a great opportunity,” Richards said. “He’s playing on the power play, he’ll get good minutes, so hopefully he can put that in his mind before the game even starts, that ‘I’m gonna get this chance,’ and just relax and play, and maybe that’ll help him … We know he’s fast, he’s big and hopefully he just relaxes out there and shoots the puck like he can, and we’ll try to help him as much as we can.”
THE NEXT STEP
The adjustment period is over for Stepan, at least that’s the message Alain Vigneault seems to be sending with Stepan’s promotion back to the first line. Derick Brassard’s play has been underwhelming, and the Rangers have struggled offensively, so it’s time for New York’s top center to play like it.
“Certainly as I go through this part of my career, there’s been some bumps, but I feel that I’m getting stronger and stronger as I go through these first seven games,” Stepan said Wednesday. “The last two games I feel that I’m much closer to myself defensively and (as far as) my timing throughout the game. Now the next step is scoring a goal and helping out offensively.”
‘F’ FOR EFFORT
Above all of the Rangers’ deficiencies thus far, the Rangers’ effort has irked Vigneault the most, which the coach discussed Wednesday.
“There are different components to compete level,” Vigneault said. “One of the components in my estimation is the consistency factor. If something doesn’t go your way in a shift or in a period, you have to be able to push back and push the opponent back, which we’ve done for some periods of time, but obviously not to my liking. I’m sure if you asked the players they would tell you the same thing, too. They’re not pleased at all with the way we’ve been playing.”