And the crowd goes mild at Joe Louis Arena... - Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Every team has a few defensemen who take on the tough assignments, and rarely get the accolades that go with scoring a big goal. In the old days, those guys may not have been the best skaters, but the modern game doesn't allow for that. Kevin Klein's abilty to keep up with the pace and maintain position makes him a critical component of the Nashville blueline.
While Klein's offensive numbers and Corsi results don't jump out at you, there is one area in which he excels: playing tough defensive minutes without taking penalties. Out of 197 NHL defensemen who played 40 games last year and averaged at least 10 minutes per game, Klein was the only one in the league who didn't take a penatly during 5-on-5 play. In fact, the only 4 penalty minutes he took all season came in an altercation with Anaheim's Francois Beauchemin, in which Klein stood up for Mike Fisher after Fish took a nasty hit from the Ducks defenseman. Both Klein & Beauchemin received four minutes in penalties, leaving the teams at even strength.
Thus Klein was able to hold down the fort the entire regular season without taking a penalty that left his teammates down a man. That's pretty freaking remarkable, and that accomplishment alone was worth about one point in the standings for Nashville (an average D-man as cited above took 11.3 penalties in 5-on-5, which translates to between 2-3 goals).
Klein wasn't totally left out of the spotlight, though, as he scored two goals against Detroit in the playoffs, including this beauty:
While there was good reason to be concerned that players might get fat & out of shape during the extended lockout, Klein put a new spin on the phrase "pounding a Danish" while playing in Denmark for the Herlev Eages. As told by the Tennessean's Josh Cooper:
...in a Dec. 4 game for Herlev, he was hit from behind a few feet from the boards. The check sent Klein into a bit of a rage and he was assessed 27 penalty minutes - for roughing, slashing and a game misconduct.
"It was a little bit of a dangerous play, so I kind of took exception to that," Klein said with a chuckle.
After she saw her brother was OK, [Kevin's sister] Laura found it slightly comical that the normally even-keeled Klein got angry so quickly.
"He actually got in a fight, which was pretty funny because you're not supposed to fight (in the Danish league)," she said. "He's not a fighter (but) people were scared of him."
There's every reason to believe that Klein is in fighting trim and ready to go, and he's likely to hold a similar shutdown role in the season ahead. Shea Weber & Ryan Ellis will get the offensive opportunities, so it's up to Klein to soak up PK minutes and defensive zone starts to free up his more celebrated teammates.
As a 28-year-old blueliner entering his 5th full-time NHL season, is there any upside left to Klein's game?