Kevin Klein will return to the Rangers for game 1 of their second round playoff series. Klein told Blue Shirts United about his status after practice on Monday, “I feel I’m in good shape, I’ve been skating a lot, I feel strong now, which is a positive, and I feel that I could be out there 100 percent.”
Regardless of who the Rangers end up playing, they should take comfort in getting Kevin Klein back, he has been a reliable defender for them since he arrived last year in a trade for Michael Del Zotto. Klein is good enough to play a shutdown game against top opponents. He plays a physical style that is necessary in the playoffs, and is coming off of his best offensive regular season to date.
Kevin Klein was one of the Rangers most reliable defenders throughout the regular season. When Klein joined the Rangers he was billed as a gritty defensive defender. When the Rangers first made the move for Klein, Coach Alain Vigneault told Pat Leonard of The Daily News about what he brought to the team, “Right-handed D. Our scouts had some real good reports on him. I’ve seen him for many years. He’s a solid two-way defenseman, more of a defensive type defenseman.” Klein has averaged 18:29 per game this year, and has been a terrific shot blocker, absorbing 155 shots, good for 4th on the Rangers.
Klein isn’t afraid to throw his body around the ice, and even drops the gloves when need be. This season he had 126 hits in 65 games, good to land him 4th on the Rangers in the category. Below is a good example of what makes Klein good at being physical. He recognizes when he has support and steps in and delivers a solid clean body check to allow the Rangers possession.
We don’t see a whole lot of fighting in the playoffs, but we see plenty of scrums in front of the net. The Pittsburgh Penguins were often seen in front of the Rangers net trying to bother Henrik Lundqvist, and for the most part they didn’t have to pay a heavy price. Klein is the kind of player who will step in and clear the crease, as you can see below he has protected Lundqvist before.
Klein has 3 fighting majors this season. He is far from being a brute, but there is no doubt in my mind that his teammates will walk a little taller knowing they have a guy like Klein watching their back.
Klein has had his best offensive season to date notching 9 goals and 17 assists. 4 of his 9 goals have been game winners and overall Klein has found another level in his offensive game. He has been joining the rush more often and has been getting his big slap shot through some traffic. The video below really demonstrates who Klein is as a player. He looses a chunk of his ear, but returns to help the Rangers beat the Penguins in overtime.
For Klein to find this level of production has been a bonus for the Rangers. From what I have seen, Klein is playing with more confidence. He’s been finding the puck when it’s loose, driving the net when there is a lane, and even hanging onto the puck at the blue line. Klein should be able to give Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh some extra minutes off during games. If Klein has his A game off the bat, then the Rangers will have an incredible amount of versatility on their defense.