When Keith Yandle was acquired from Arizona prior to the trade deadline, the focus became on the formidable blue line corps the Rangers now possessed (once all the Anthony Duclair consternation died down, that is). With John Moore headed to the desert, Matt Hunwick became a depth guy and Dan Boyle’s minutes were about to become much more sheltered. All was well.
At the end of Wednesday night’s game in Washington, Kevin Klein left the ice and was headed to New York for tests. When the results came back, it was 3-4 weeks on the shelf with the ever mysterious “upper-body injury”. Panic ensues. Don’t get me wrong, Kevin Klein has been very solid for the Rangers this year, even if his torrid goal scoring pace (predictably) slowed down.
The injury now presses Hunwick into playing regularly, which as already happened when John Moore was suspended/struggling. Honestly, the biggest issue surrounding the injury is that is ails a right handed defenseman, forcing someone to play on the off side. There are many possible permutations, and I think AV will experiment a little, but you are still looking at a top four of McDonagh, Girardi, Staal and Yandle. Boyle and Hunwick will have their minutes sheltered a bit, even if it means playing around with the second and third pairs.
But, all that will come in time. This post is about reassuring Rangers fans that the drop off between Klein and Hunwick will not be that severe. In fact, it may not be that noticeable, at all. See the side by side HERO charts below.
Both players play about a comparable amount of ice time per game (averaging a little over 18 min for Klein and 16 min for Hunwick). Klein’s otherworldly offensive production is a complete outlier for the rest of his career, so I don’t really read into a direct comparison on their charts. What stands out is that Hunwick has outplayed Klein in every major possession category outside of points. Granted, there is a 20 game sample discrepancy at play here, however, the point is that we’re not going from Ryan McDonagh to Steve Eminger.
I suppose the overall point I’m trying to make is that there is no reason to panic. Klein should make it back before the playoffs and send Hunwick back into a depth role. Hunwick has been a solid role player all season and has shown he can step up when pressed into limited duty. If the Rangers can sustain the loss of the best goalie in the world* for almost two months and be contending for the President’s Trophy, I’m fairly certain the loss of a third-pairing defenseman can be weathered for a couple weeks.
*Although, Carey Price looks like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park in the mirror of that chase.