BOSTON — No one in their right mind would tell you that the NHL regular season is more difficult than the Stanley Cup playoffs.
There may be times in 2013, however, when it looks that way for New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider.
Such is life for a wunderkind, as the pride of Boxford made arguably the most unique regular season debut in NHL history when the Bruins beat the Rangers, 3-1, at TD Garden Saturday night.
Having already skated in 18 Stanley Cup playoff games, scoring a record five goals and seven points for a player with zero regular season games last spring, Kreider’s debut was hardly a baptism. It was also delayed more than three months by the most recent NHL lockout, time he spent playing for the Connecticut Whale in the American Hockey League.
Because of the lockout, the Rangers first regular season game wound up against Boston, in a building where Kreider was a perfect 6-0 with three Beanpots and three Hockey East titles while playing a few miles away at Boston College.
“I was excited to come back to Boston for this first regular season (game),” Kreider said in the barren visitors’ locker room after Saturday’s contest. “But it would’ve been a lot better to win.”
Just 21 years old, Kreider took 16 shifts Saturday night. He played 10:13, somewhat less than the 13:02 he averaged in last year’s playoffs. He didn’t have the puck on his stick much and didn’t have the flash, or dash, of the player that scored three goals in the Eastern Conference Finals last spring and led USA Today’s preseason Calder Trophy hopefuls for Rookie of the Year.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort by Kreider, who skated hard and did his job defensively on the third line with Hingham native (and fellow Boston College product) Brian Boyle at center and Taylor Pyatt on the opposite wing. The New York press dubbed them the ‘Beanpot Line.’