Chris Rider of Rangers is getting better with age

It was a typical training day for Chris Crider, another morning skating at the Rangers facility in Taritown, New York, like hundreds before him. Towards the end, Crider sat down in front of Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers goalkeeper, as a phalanx of teammates fired in their direction.

One by one, as the washers fluttered in the air toward them at approximately 100 miles per hour, Crider calmly tilted them with his wand. Some slammed into the crossbar, some bounced to the door, some bounced off Shesterkin’s lining. But Crider has caught on to almost every one of them.

For the novice eye, this was an amazing display of eye-hand coordination, the product of thousands of hours of practice and natural skills. It was also reminiscent of the craft required by a baseball bat facing a fastball, something Crider did obsessively while growing up in Boxford, Massachusetts, north of Boston.

“I hit a baseball, it’s been something I’ve been doing for a very, very long time,” Crider said, “and there are similarities.”

But the batteries have no other players in front of them, blocking their view of the incoming projectile, or an opposing player who stabs a stick in their back, trying to push them away from the fold.

The mouth of the gate, a stubbornly icy area around the opponent’s goal, is where Crider does his best job, especially in the Rangers’ powerful game. This is where Crider is recognized – especially this year – as one of the best in the world, making comparisons with the great Sidney Crosby and Joe Paulski, who many consider a master at the goal.

This year, Crider may have overtaken them. With a career-high 34 goals, he is third in the NHL and leads the league with 17 goals in powerlifting.

This from a player who has never scored more than 28 goals in any of his first nine seasons in the NHL. But this year, Crider scored 12 in January alone, some with their backs to the door.

“He’s one of the best I’ve seen throwing puck,” said Adam Fox, Rangers’ best defender. “Some goals, like those in power play, when he is close to the crossbar and can deflect him from the goalkeeper, you don’t see many people doing that. You see how Crosby does it and he is one of the best players in the league.

Several of Kreider’s 34 goals were laser strikes with the wrist from the wing, but most were diverted from the side, aimed at home or with a shovel in the flanks. Sometimes it was both, as on Thursday, when Crider returned to his favorite spot in front of the door and made a shot that was temporarily stopped by Washington Capitals goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov. But Crider collected the rebound and shot him close with the goalkeeper out of position.

This was a typical Crider. But wandering around the web like a shark was not always his game.

“I was a very different player in high school,” he said, noting that he changed his style after college to increase his value at the highest level. This evolution has created one of the most dangerous players in the league.

In his youth, Crider was a sight on the rinks in New England. Faster, stronger, and more skilled than almost all of his students, and later college athletes, Crider moved from one end to the other with the puck hanging from his wand as his defenders and teammates struggled to cope.

Garnet Hathaway, a winger of the Capitals, remembers being one of those players who often lags behind. He met Crider when they were sophomores at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, not far from Crider’s hometown, and the couple immediately became friends. Hathaway spent one summer living in the Crider family home in Boxford and marveled at his friend’s relentless pursuit and overwhelming desire to win in everything he did.

“He had all the tattered nets he went through in their driveway and all the washers lost in the woods,” Hathaway recalled. “He was an amazing athlete. We spent the summer training, training, and then he would want to play basketball and he would score and try to beat his sister in a game. Then we go inside and play some board game and he will win in that too.

Hathaway, who managed to enter the NHL despite not being drafted, said that from the moment Crider arrived in Andover, he showed dedication to the job – even without coaches around – which Hathaway called “contagious”.

One night after training, Hathaway, Crider and another teammate went to Cryder’s gym in the pouring rain for extra training until they noticed a flat tire. Hathaway suggested that the gym session would be abandoned. Crider never thought about it. He insisted on repairing the tire in the rain, after which they went to the gym.

“I consider myself lucky to have been around him to get this racing boost,” Hathaway said. “It simply came to my notice then. Surrounding yourself with smart, hard-working people who are friendly is the best thing you can do. ”

Later, at Boston College, Crider was still one of the best skaters on the national championship team. But it was there, he said, that coaches first began to lead him to the door and teach him the art of sifting through the goalkeeper, throwing and redirecting puck and predicting the right place. After joining Rangers, he said the process intensified and as his professional career unfolded, he continued to transform from lightning to sand, from Pavel Bure to Phil Esposito.

Drawn as 19th overall in 2009, Crider made an impressive career for the Rangers, even if he never scored again. His 211 goals are 12th on the Rangers’ career list, where he and Brian Leach are the only Americans in the top 20. With 625 games played, Crider is ninth among the Rangers in plus / minus with a plus-82 in 10 years.

He and Victor Hedman, the world defender of Tampa Bay Lightning, are the only players in the first round of their draft class who are still in the same team, which is an indication of their growth. This is a remarkable achievement for someone whose earliest fantasy was to be a professional baseball player. Crider said he was obsessed with the game when he was young. As a hunter, he understood the importance of recognizing the unique movement of a pitcher’s ball as it approached the plate. Today, he applies the same approach to the blows of his teammates.

He said K’Andre Miller’s shot tended to go up and likened Fox’s hit to diving a fastball with a split finger, except for a recent match when it went up.

“It surprised me like a ball,” Crider said when the old cat appeared briefly. “The runner would be in second place.”

When a new defender comes to Rangers, Crider stands behind him in one of his first training sessions with the team to assess how the puck moves from his wand before facing the net to train tips.

This is the kind of attention to detail that helped Crider evolve from a puck skater to one of the most feared hockey players and build one year of his career with 30 more games. play.

“I don’t think anyone is surprised by that,” said Jacob Trumpet, a Rangers defender. “He put a lot of them in the net. He knows what he’s good at and puts himself in a position to be successful. “

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