There are at least two things in life that I know I’ll always love: Boston Bruins hockey and Boston College hockey. So, you can imagine the internal conflict I felt around 9:55 PM Eastern time on Thursday when star New York Rangers forward Rick Nash connected on a magnificent feed with none other than Chris Kreider, the most talented BC forward during my time on the Heights, to defeat my beloved Bruins in overtime of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal, cutting Boston’s series lead to three games to one. With his late game heroics, Kreider thwarted the Bruins’ first of up to four attempts to close out the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three years.
Most of me was upset about this. The Bruins lost a game in which they never trailed. This was how Game 4 of the unforgettable and embarrassing 2010 collapse ended, too, and I never want to experience that again. It was a game in which they made so many boneheaded and unforced errors that almost never happen to such a skilled and well-coached team. It’s the kind of loss that you’ll point to as the biggest missed opportunity if you don’t win a series. If they had completed the sweep, they would’ve gained a lot of necessary extra rest for team that played a ridiculously grueling schedule over the past two months, having played 17 games in the month of March, six games in the final eight days of the regular season (thanks in part to having three home games rescheduled to that week due to Winter Storm Nemo and the marathon bombings), and a physically and mentally exhausting 7-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs (which Boston also led 3-1 after four games).
But I didn’t hate that loss as much as I would have if any other Ranger had scored. After all, it was Chris Kreider. Just a year ago, he made the end of my senior year unforgettable and helped bring home BC’s third national title in five years, and his second national title in his three years as an Eagle. He was known for scoring goals like this in big games. Like me, he’s Massachusetts born and bred. It’s great to see him continue to succeed at such a high level and build off of the big game success that he had in college. And if you’ve been following the saga of Kreider and/or the New York Rangers at all this season, you can imagine how great Thursday must’ve felt for the former BC standout. Not even weeks after leading BC on its 2012 national championship run, Kreider signed with the New York Rangers, the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, for the start of the playoffs. Much to the pleasant surprise of Blueshirt fans, he made an immediate and sizeable impact, scoring 5 goals, an NHL record for a player having 0 games of NHL regular season experience under his belt. After his outstanding postseason, Rangers fans had high expectations for Kreider coming into this season, and rightfully so. However, Kreider had a frustrating season, spending time bouncing between New York and the Rangers’ minor league affiliate in Hartford, playing only 23 games with New York and registering just 2 goals, an assist, and a minus-1 rating. When Kreider did appear in games for the Rangers, it wouldn’t be for long, as much-maligned (and hilarious) Ranger coach John Tortorella barely played the rookie winger when he was with the big club. To add to that frustration, the Blueshirts were starved for offense all season, leaving many fans scratching their heads as to why the offensively gifted player was playing merely 10 minutes a night and getting kept off of one of the league’s worst power plays for the Taylor Pyatts of the world. Now, with the playoffs here and Big Game Kreider beginning to live up to his reputation, the former Eagle was rewarded by being placed on the top line with Nash and Derick Brassard, and rewarded his team’s faith in him in overtime on Thursday with a beautiful finish.
Knowing that Kreider has had a very frustrating rookie year, it was nice to see him break through in a big moment for his team and possibly vindicating himself, even if it came at the expense of my own team. I will still always remember Kreider fondly for what he brought to the BC Hockey program, knowing that he was yet another product of a living legend in Jerry York. Of course, if the Rangers pull off the miracle comeback, I have a hunch that my feelings about his heroics will likely change. But here’s to hoping it never gets to that point so both the BC half and Bruins half of me can get along again.