Archive for Kevin Klein
With the Rangers on their bye week, which was perfectly timed with the halfway point of the season, we are afforded the opportunity to evaluate the Rangers with nothing else going on. Midseason report cards have been a bit of a tradition here at BSB, so let’s keep that tradition going, shall we?
Over the next few days, each of us will be tackling a different aspect of the team, and assigning grades accordingly. I’m batting leadoff here, and I’m going to be discussing the most polarizing aspect of this year’s team: The defense.
Overall, the back line for the Rangers has been relatively bad. The combination of age, injuries, wear and tear, and a shift towards speed has made what was once a strong defense into a bottom-five unit in the league. The slow start by Henrik Lundqvist exposed the defense even more. But it’s not all bad, either.
The Rangers can probably tolerate one blueliner playing poorly until they finally decide to amend their blueline closer to the trade deadline, a time when cap space is likely to be plentiful and when the typical NYC obsession with acquiring a big name will take over Jeff Gorton. What they cannot afford is to have multiple liabilities on the back end, particularly on a unit that cannot move the puck as it is and on a unit, that is seemingly playing worse in its own zone as the season progresses.
Kevin Klein has truly come back down to earth and is nowhere near the player the Rangers have enjoyed over the past couple of seasons. His form with and without the puck is becoming a serious problem for the Rangers. With his unsustainable level of offense now a memory, Klein is standing out more for his multiple turnovers, poor positional play and general incompetence on the ice. His indecisiveness and hesitation on the puck right in front of Henrik Lundqvist against the ‘Canes – that led to Viktor Stalberg’s goal – was typical of the Klein we’ve seen this season more often than not.
Fans have been clamoring for Clendo to get into the lineup for a while. It’s no surprise that it’s for Klein either, who has been struggling mightily all season. Let’s see what the kid can do.
In case you missed it, the Rangers are off to a pretty solid start. While the team sure is fun to watch, the pace of play and success might not be sustainable. Most of that is due to the massive upgrade needed on defense.
Folks immediately point to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal because of their contracts, or Nick Holden because of his early gaffes. But Kevin Klein has been under-the-radar bad to start the season, and it’s one of the main reasons why the Rangers are struggling in the overall shot-attempt battle (CF%), and why detractors are saying their fall is coming fast.
Last night, the Rangers collected their eight victory of the season over the red hot (?!) Edmonton Oilers. The Blueshirts spoiled Cam Talbot’s return to the Garden and scored five goals for the sixth time in eleven games this season, which is nuts. Any way, I have some thoughts.
1. There has been a lot of discussion about PDO when it comes to the Rangers performance thus far. It’s not like last year where unsustainably hot goaltending was masking other issues, but more of a discussion about high shooting percentage and low save percentage evening out. The Rangers would still be a very good team under this analysis, but just not the offensive powerhouse that they have been to this point. Read More→
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.