BOSTON — There were moments Saturday night at the TD Garden when it appeared the visiting New York Rangers might be able to extend their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Boston Bruins. The Blueshirts were playing a heavy game and had life.
The physical play of rookie Chris Kreider of Boxford helped the Rangers stay in it. And while Boston ultimately overcame an early New York lead to win the game, 3-1, and the series, 4 games to 1, observers of Kreider had to be encouraged by what they saw from the former first round draft choice.
Early in the second period of Game 5, Kreider unloaded on Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. He won the puck, sent the Boston blueliner to the ice with an authoritative shove and briefly inspired his bench.
The hit, already made into a moving graphic by one Internet site, was a microcosm for what the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kreider can be when he’s playing with speed and confidence.
After New York fell behind, 3-0, in the series, coach John Tortorella made a much-publicized decision to sit star center Brad Richards. That also moved Kreider from a limited fourth line role to top six duty. He was paired with blossoming center Derek Stepan and star winger Rick Nash here Saturday night, and the physicality he brought may have been a direct result.
“Its always a piece of my game. I was more cognizant of it (Saturday), playing with the players I’m playing with, trying to make space for them,” said Kreider, who by virtue of playing with Nash was also matched against arguably the best defenseman in the world, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, and his partner, Seidenberg.
“I wanted to make it hard for their top couple pairings when they go in deep for the puck ... they’re running around hitting (Nash), so I’m trying to do the same (to them).”