After last night’s win over the Lightning, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault was asked for his thoughts on what could’ve been a game-changing play — Chris Kreider’s cross-checking penalty on Steve Stamkos, delivered in retaliation for a hit Stamkos laid on Ryan McDonagh moments earlier:
Bolts forward Ryan Callahan scored 20 seconds into the ensuing power play, cutting New York’s lead in half while energizing the Tampa Bay crowd. The play warranted some harsh media critique as Krieder was accused of being “dopey” and having “drove home his point too emphatically.”
To be fair, there were some — including a few Blueshirts — who felt the referees missed a boarding penalty on the initial Stamkos hit. Vigneault touched on that, along with Kreider’s actions, in today’s presser:
Q. Are you okay with Kreider’s response to the non-call?
Vigneault: Yeah. I mean, I think 98% of the people watching that hit, the numbers are there, five or six strides, face into the boards. You’ve got to play through that at this time.
I mean, as much as — at some point you’re happy that a player protects their teammate, and at this time not knowing what the guys calling are going to call, I mean, I’m more tempted to say turn the other cheek and let’s play.
Tuesday wasn’t the first time Kreider’s penchant for retaliation has hurt the Blueshirts. In A 6-5 OT loss in Game 3, he did this:
Moving ahead, the challenge for both Kreider and Vigneault will be finding — then toeing — the line between aggressiveness and recklessness. Much of what makes Kreider effective is his physicality; at 6-foot-3, 226 pounds and one of the most powerful skaters left in the postseason, the 24-year-old can have a massive impact on the game just by throwing himself around.
But as Game 6 showed, Kreider might be developing a reputation among officials. Between his history of retribution and crashing opposing netminders, there always seems to be an extra set of eyes on Kreider — and a quick whistle at the ready.