New York Rangers power forward Chris Kreider opened the 2016-17 NHL season against the Islanders like it was the last game of his life.

It feels like yesterday that Chris Kreider was shot out of a cannon at us and plopped right onto Broadway. The Boston College stud who was snagged by the New York Rangers near the end of the 2011-12 NHL season and ramped up the entire heart rate of all Madison Square Garden onlookers during the Spring of 2012, still, incredibly, feels like yesterday. 

It was Kreider’s five goals and seven total points in 18 total Stanley Cup Playoff games that helped the Blueshirts to its first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in a decade and a half. And this, all coming from a kid who was only turning a ripe 21 years of age that very spring.

The Garden faithful immediately fell in love with the power forward who displayed the greatest combination of speed and strength in quite some time. Not even the sky was the limit.


Fast-forward five seasons. The description of enigma has since superseded the optimistic, yet real word of potential as it relates to Kreider.

Fans have been (not so) patiently waiting for Kreider’s breakout to commence. The now 25-year-old has collected over 20 goals in each of the last two seasons (21, 21), but hasn’t yet put it all together. At times he’s looked completely lost on the ice — allowing his mind to negatively affect his unreal raw physical ability.

But then Thursday night happened — the night the Rangers opened the fresh 2016-17 NHL season at home against their Brooklyn counterparts, the Islanders. And suddenly the headcase adjective used to describe Kreider was no longer prudent.

Kreider tallied the biggest goal of the contest, a semi-breakaway in which he schooled Isles goaltender Jaroslav Halak:

After dominating the first two periods, the Isles quickly tied the game at two in the third period. Something, anything was needed to get a jolt of electricity flowing in the sudden dead MSG air. Young Pavel Buchnevich spearheaded the goal with a bullet pass.

Kreider, who actually speaks Russian, elaborated on the play, via Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

“Did I yell for it? Did Pav say I yelled for it, because I don’t remember?” Kreider asked reporters in reference to the game-breaking goal. “But whatever I yelled, it’s good that he heard me.”

Buchnevich knew what Kreider said:

“He was screaming, ‘I love you!’ ” Buchnevich said through a translator.

Which brings us to the more exciting point and part about Chris Kreider. Finally, although still early, it seems as though he has two linemates loaded with enough skill to unleash the former enigma’s untapped potential.

Young Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad are two kids who can not only help Kreider reach all-star status, but can match his talent level step-for-step. In collecting five total points between the three players, the Rangers second line on paper is playing like the top line in reality. It’s something that started in preseason and has now carried over into the real deal.

Even the usually dreaded power play (in years past) has been hitting on all cylinders in this first month of Rangers hockey action:

Training camp stud Brandon Pirri joins the line on the power play making for one dangerous unit, as seen on New York’s fourth goal of the night.

Granted, it’s only one regular season game.

Granted, the reason hockey enigmas are enigmas is because they take you to the brink of stardom only to crush your hopes and dreams by becoming lost on the ice for several months.

But so far, so good.

If Chris Kreider and his line play like this moving forward, Alain Vigneault will have one dangerous offensive group lines one through three.

With seven shots on goal and a body that acts as a wrecking ball, the raw physical ability is, of course, still there. He just needs to remove the “enigma” description from his bio.

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Founder of Elite Sports NY---Former strong safety, point guard and 400-meter hustler. Remembers Matteau, the Dunk, the Yankees on MSG, Mr. Conn Smythe Leetch and Chrebet's fearless ways. E-Mail: robsabo10@elitesportsny.com