Archive for Kevin Klein
With the signing of Marek Hrivik, the Rangers have cleared up most of their to-dos for this summer. They locked up their restricted free agents. They got younger, cheaper, and faster with a big trade that also brought back a high draft pick. They retooled their bottom-six with quicker, more skilled, better defensive, and better penalty killing players. But the one major move that has been oddly absent is the big change to the blue line.
Many expected –hoped– that the big change on the blue line would come at the expense of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. That was fueled by some draft day rumors that the Rangers were looking to move the pair. However that was shot down eventually by the public statement that Jeff Gorton expects Girardi to have a bounce back season. Considering the contracts, trading just one of them has always been a long shot. But perhaps the upgrade on the blue line will come from a relatively unexpected place – Kevin Klein.
Over the course of the season, we, along with many other folks, have beaten to death that the Rangers defense is not what it used to be. While we’ve addressed some of the root causes, we have not addressed what specifically changed from last year. The personnel is the same. The system is the same. So it’s fair to expect similar results.
As with anything in sports analysis, it is very rarely one thing. A culmination of factors can conspire to change something that once appeared static and reliable.
First, let’s take a look at age. The average age on the blue line is 29.7 years old. That is not a young group. Dan Boyle’s spritely 39 years obviously skews things a bit, but Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath are the only members of the defense significantly under 30 (Yandle is 29). Especially for the less mobile defenseman, there are a lot of miles on those bodies.
Injuries are a common occurrence in hockey. Whether it’s bumps and bruises, broken bones, or torn ligaments, they happen all the time and teams around the league deal with injuries regularly. For the Rangers, they have two players on their blue line that have been dealing with injuries. Dan Girardi has a fractured knee cap, and Kevin Klein has a broken thumb.
Klein’s injury is the most recent, having occurred last week. He missed exactly one game before returning to the lineup in Philadelphia. Girardi’s been dealing with the knee cap injury for most of the season. Neither missed significant time, even though Dylan McIlrath, a former first round pick that the Rangers have spent five years developing, is sitting in the press box for his chance.
But are they really performing better injured than a healthy McIlrath? By the numbers, McIlrath is deserving of more time, and he’s outplaying most of his blue line brethren as well.
The Rangers will be without defenseman Kevin Klein for the foreseeable future with a broken thumb, and the injury came at the worst possible time. Klein has been arguably the Rangers’ best defenseman, and absolutely the best right-handed defenseman. Dylan McIlrath will get extended playing time, likely with Keith Yandle.
On paper, the drop-off from Klein to McIlrath shouldn’t be all that terrible. McIlrath actually has better possession numbers, but it’s a small sample. But from what we’ve seen, he’s been able to make the smart first pass out of the zone and manages his gap control very well, which helps hide his weaker skating.
Kevin Klein is officially out indefinitely with a fractured thumb. Klein suffered the injury late in the third period of last night’s game on a hit from Reid Boucher. The hit wasn’t dirty, but Klein landed awkwardly on his hand.
It is expected that Dylan McIlrath will play in his place, and no call ups will be made.
It’s amazing how things change in a short period of time. Just last season the bedrock of the Rangers’ success was arguably their defensive depth from one to six. This season however we have seen the inconsistencies of Ryan McDonagh, the misuse of Keith Yandle and the relative regression of Marc Staal but especially Dan Girardi. Last season several people thought Kevin Klein was the organisation’s best trade option on the blueline if the Rangers were to strengthen elsewhere because he was dispensable.
Fast forward to this season and the Rangers have (as has been well documented) struggled to keep pucks out of their own net and most people assume, to maintain a mid to long term competitiveness, the Rangers will need to move Girardi and/or Staal to ease the cap problems. Not so much discussion on trading Kevin Klein any more hey?
We’re at the halfway point of the 2015-16 season and one thing that’s been readily apparent about the Rangers so far is that their often vaunted defensive game has struggled. Although the team has improved considerably in the recent weeks, it’s no secret that their defense corp is not what it once was, with injuries catching up to Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Even Ryan McDonagh has struglged at times. One bright spot along the Rangers blue line however has been Kevin Klein, who not only has improved since last season but has stood out among his peers and helped to stabilize the Rangers’ defensive play.
Klein’s play has improved considerably this season in almost every area, with the stats to show it. Last season he posted a high-danger scoring chance against rate of 11.7 per 60 minutes, a scoring chances against rate of 24.3 per 60 minutes, and a Corsi against rate of 56.2 per 60 minutes, all of which have improved to 9.9, 23.3, and 51.5, respectively. Although he doesn’t have quite the same point production that he had last season, the scoring streak he went on last year was driven mostly by an unsustainable shooting percentage, so tightening up his game defensively is noteworthy. While the improvements may be in some respects modest, it’s plainly evident in his positioning and decision making that he’s operating at a higher level this season than last.
The Rangers appear to be fully healthy today, as Kevin Klein, Dan Girardi, and Antti Raanta all returned to practice today. Klein has been out the longest with an abdominal injury, almost three weeks. Girardi missed a week with a knee injury. Raanta missed a week with what was likely a concussion. Klein’s injury really cost the Rangers, as he was their best defenseman before the injury.
Make of that what you will.
Derek Stepan (ribs) and Kevin Klein (abdominal) are both traveling with the Rangers on this road trip, beginning in Minnesota tonight. Alain Vigneault stated that Stepan and Klein likely won’t play tonight, but there’s a chance both will play tomorrow.
The lineup for tonight’s game will likely remain the same, but there will need to be some roster decisions made when they both return.
When I was preparing to write this post, the original title was going to be “What is wrong with the Rangers powerplay?” Then as I got to watching this year’s games, and last year’s games, I got more and more frustrated. It’s not about the lack of goals. Ok, that’s a lie, it is about the lack of goals, but that’s just a by-product of a critical piece that is missing from this powerplay.
The Rangers do not have a right-handed shot on the off-wing that forces opponents to respect the shot from that side of the ice.
Derek Stepan is too methodical from that spot. He rarely one-times it and is looking to set people up. That’s fine, but when he’s on a powerplay unit with Keith Yandle, it creates two people looking to set up and no one looking to finish. This works against the Rangers, and it leads to too much passing and not enough shots. The puck movement is great, but there needs to be someone who will fire away.