Dreams Come True
In a game at Madison Square Garden on Monday, December 8, 2014, the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime on a goal from defenseman Kevin Klein. Klein, who had been badly cut in the ear by a high stick from Zach Sill in the first period, came back into the game to notch his third game winning goal of the season. The goal was also his second OT game winner on the year. It was “Garden of Dreams” night at MSG, and via their Garden of Dreams Foundation the Rangers made dreams come true for several young hockey fans. Then Klein gave Rangers fans his own version of a fairytale ending.
The Story So Far
When the Rangers traded Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators last season for Klein, they had a pretty good idea of what they were getting. Klein was going to bring a solid defense-first work ethic and a much-needed right-handed shot to the Rangers’ blueline. Now in his second season (his first full one) on Broadway, Kevin Klein has been all that and more for the Blueshirts.
Though this season has so far been an extremely inconsistent one for the Rangers, there has been nothing inconsistent about Klein’s play. He has been one of their best defensemen game-in and game-out. So far this season, he leads all Rangers defensemen in goals, points, and plus/minus. Also, his three game-winning-goals currently tie him for the lead among all defensemen in the NHL.
For those into analytics, Klein’s advanced stats show him as a strong, consistent player as well. His Corsi For % of 50.98 this season is second only to Matt Hunwick among the regular Rangers’ defensemen. That number looks even better when you take into account his Offensive Zone Start % of 44.29 (meaning he has started his shifts more often in the defensive zone, on average, than any Rangers defenseman not named Staal or Girardi). Any way you slice it statistically, Kevin Klein has been extremely solid for the Rangers this year.
Klein has helped the Rangers defensively from the beginning. Now he is providing an offensive spark as well–so much so that coach Alain Vigneault quipped after the Penguins game that he was “getting a lot of heat because I’m not using him on the power play.” He’s also been one of the most visible Rangers off-ice as well, is very involved in the Rangers’ community service efforts, and makes many public appearances. During one book signing, a lifelong Rangers fan named Rachel Greenstein even asked Klein to her prom–and he accepted. Is it any wonder why he is rapidly becoming a fan favorite?
Old Time Hockey – Kevin Klein Style
Much is made about the toughness of hockey players compared to other sports. We’re not here to open that debate back up, but Klein definitely added another chapter to the “What Hockey Players Are Made Of” book during that game against the Penguins. The damage to his ear by the high stick was severe enough to need over a dozen stitches to close, and part of the ear was actually missing and needed to be sewn back on. As if there was any doubt, Kevin Klein is one tough man, a really good hockey player, and a heck of a nice guy to boot. What’s not to love?
AV on Kevin Klein's ear: "He lost a piece of it. They sewed it back. Say what you want about hockey players. They're tough SOBs." #NYR
— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) December 9, 2014
Kevin has been covering the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers for The Hockey Writers since the 2013-14 season. Before that, he has written about, played, and coached hockey at all levels. He grew up a Rangers fan in the Southern Tier of New York State, but now lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and two sons. You can reach him on Twitter as @kmizTHW , or via email (email@example.com).