NEW YORK -- The 2015-16 NHL season was the shortest of Chris Kreider's professional career, but the New York Rangers forward thinks that could be a good thing for him and his team.
"I haven't been out this early since I was 17," the 25-year-old forward said Thursday. "It's a bit strange, but honestly it might be a little bit of a blessing in disguise for us. It's a good opportunity to get healthy and go work on some things moving forward."
New York was eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the Eastern Conference First Round, the Rangers' first first-round exit since 2010-11. Kreider, who joined the Rangers during the 2011-12 playoffs -- right after winning a second straight national championship with Boston College -- helped them advance to the Eastern Conference Final that season and again in 2015, and to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, when New York lost to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.
The Rangers reached the second round before falling to the Boston Bruins in 2013, and Kreider played deep into the spring in 2010 and 2011, representing the United States at the World Championship while enrolled at BC.
The Rangers eliminated Pittsburgh in five games in the first round in 2015, but the Penguins turned the tables on them this season. Kreider acknowledged all the intangibles Pittsburgh had in its run to the Stanley Cup.
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"They had a ton of team chemistry, chemistry between their lines too," Kreider said. "They played fast. They bought into their system, they checked their egos at the door. If you made a mistake, they're making you pay for it. "
Kreider, a first-round pick of the Rangers (No. 19) in the 2009 NHL Draft, has 61 regular-season goals in four seasons with the Rangers and has had 21 goals in each of the past two seasons.
He just finished a two-year deal he signed after the 2013-14 season and can become a restricted free agent July 1. Kreider said he is focused on training for the 2016-17 season and not on a new contract with the Rangers.
"I haven't really thought about it, to be honest," Kreider said at a reception for 37.5 Technology, which helps develop sports apparel. "It's a bit of a cliche, but you can only control what you can control, and you just block everything else out. What I can control is getting in the gym, getting on the ice now, working to get healthy and get better."