BOSTON – It doesn’t take long to go through the men who have both played for a North Shore high school and scored 50 goals in a single National Hockey League season:
Bobby Carpenter. Chris Kreider.
That’s it. That’s the list.
Hopefully that puts a little perspective on just how rare Kreider’s 51-goal (and counting) campaign for the New York Rangers has been. Yes, goal scoring is up around the NHL and there are thus far four 50-goal scorers. Yes, Alex Ovechkin just hit the mark for the ninth time in his ridiculous career.
But you can’t overlook how special Kreider’s 50 goals are. If The Salem News sports department re-did its “Most Amazing Accomplishments” series from 2008, there’s a good chance Kreider’s ’21 -22 season would be on the list; Carpenter’s ’85 campaign was ranked No. 2, after all.
The Boston Bruins, who beat Kreider and the Rangers 3-1 at TD Garden on Saturday, haven’t had a 50-goal scorer since Cam Neely did it with one hip in 1994. New York hadn’t had one since 2006 when Jaromir Jagr scored 54, a mark the ex-Masconomet skater could still tie or break over his team’s last few regular season games.
The Blueshirts are an Original Six team and Kreider is now one of only four 50-goal scorers in its history: Jagr, Adam Graves (1994) and Vic Hadfield (1972). As a 10-year NHL vet who has never played for another franchise, Kreider’s made the guys that picked him 19th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft and never let him walk as a free agent look pretty smart (his 228 career goals are fifth most in his draft class and second most outside the top five picks).
How many American born skaters have scored 50 goals in a season? Not many, Kreider being the 11th all-time. Three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Kane has never done it; neither has former Bruin Phil Kessel.
Until Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Kreider both hit 50 this year, no American had done so since Philadelphia’s John LeClair in 1998.
Kreider, who honed his craft for the recently retired legend Jerry York at Boston College, was the first 50-goal scorer who played college hockey since Dany Heatley in 2007. The last to hit 50 as a Hockey East alum? Maine legend and Hall of Famer Paul Kariya.
Why list all those names? To illustrate the rare air Kreider reached when he potted his 50th goal a few weeks ago. Very few men score more than 50 times in one NHL season, never mind guys that skated in the Cape Ann League (even for just two seasons).
Now 30, Kreider is enjoying by far the best season of his NHL career (Carpenter scored his 50 at age 22, and Kreider’s one of only 13 players to ever hit the mark after turning 30). The goals certainly haven’t gone to his head, either; he’s the same mature, grounded, rational, thoughtful guy that won national championships at BC.
When he took the New York media through his 50th goal at Madison Square Garden against Carolina, it was all about his teammates.
“I felt like a shooting guard for a lot of the night,” he said, noting that as he fought threw screens, he could feel his teammates trying to set him up for shots so he could reach the milestone. “A lot of incredible people in our room wanted it for me and that means the world to me.”
For a 6-foot-3, 223-pound powerhouse that sometimes defies physics with how fast he skates, Kreider is most comfortable parking in front of the net to screen the goalie and fight for loose pucks. The vast majority of his 51 goals this year have been in the danger area within two feet of the crease; that’s largely how he set a Ranger record in power play goals (he leads the NHL with 26 PPG).
Asked if he ever dreamed about scoring 50 goals when he was a kid growing up in Boxford, Kreider bristled.
“I thought about raising the Stanley Cup,” he said. “I had two posters on my wall. One was Joe Thornton when he was with the Bruins that said ‘Speed Kills’, which is kind of ironic.
“The other thing on my wall was the Stanley Cup.”
Having played an NHL playoff game before he played a regular season one, Kreider’s always thrived in the spring. He played 77 playoff games in his first six seasons, reaching the conference finals three times and the Cup Final once against the Los Angeles Kings. It’s been somewhat torturous playing just three playoff games in the last four years as the Rangers have rebuilt around him, and he surely feels grateful New York kept him around to see it through.
There’s an outside chance the Bruins could face New York in the playoffs in the first round if the Rangers catch Carolina, or in the second round if both win first round series. That’s provided Boston is the first wild card and crosses over to New York’s division. It’d be quite the challenge for the B’s to handle Kreider at the net front, in any case.
As amazing as it is to share a list with many of these luminaries that scored 50 goals, just looking at Kreider’s face you can tell he wants more. He doesn’t want to be remembered for a stat, he wants to be remembered for helping bring Lord Stanley back to MSG; he wants us to say Kreider and Carpenter are the only North Shore high school alums to score 50 and hoist a Cup.
“I love the playoffs and I’ve always wanted to win the Cup,” Kreider said. “That’s what we all dream of doing and none of us in the locker room will be happy until we get there.”
Salem News assistant sports editor Matt Williams has covered pro hockey since 2008. You can contact him at MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow along on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN