Kevin Klein says he doesn’t like the limelight. With his personality, you would think it would be the opposite.
“It’s nice to be behind the two big guys (Shea Weber and Ryan Suter) and you can just go about your business and do whatever you want,” he said. “It’s fun for a little bit, but I can’t wait for Webs and Sutes to take back over.”
The attention Klein is getting in this first-round series against Detroit isn’t something he is accustomed to, but it is well-deserved – from his Bobby Orr-esque goal and clutch shot block in Game Three, to his game-winning goal two nights later and overall hard work throughout the first four games.
Predators head coach Barry Trotz is happy to see Klein get some of the attention here in the playoffs.
“It’s good,” Trotz said. “He keeps it loose. Everything from the haircut to the goatee has just been Kevin Klein.”
Klein chuckled, “The funny thing is I had [the Mohawk] for a month and a half or two months before, and everybody [now] realizes it. That shows you how much I don’t recognized.”
In 66 regular season games, Klein scored four goals. He has scored half that many in four playoff games, and those goals have come at key moments in the game.
Most of the attention he has received has been because of his offense, not his defensive work that has been equally as impressive and important to the Predators. Klein’s block on Detroit’s Cory Emmerton in the third period of Game Three, with the Predators leading 2-1 at the time, could end up being a defining moment when this series is all said and done.
“He’s been behind Suter and Weber and playing big minutes all season long,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said of Klein. “It’s always fun to see a guy like him, who I’ve played with for such a long time, see him score and get a little attention, too. It’s awesome and he totally deserves it.”
It’s safe to say Klein is playing the best hockey of his career right now. He has logged an average of 20:35 of ice-time in the series, picking up the slack in the absence of Hal Gill.
“He’s making huge plays that do not always get noticed – blocking shots, taking up those passes,” Rinne said.
Another player that has elevated his game this postseason is rookie forward Gabriel Bourque. The Quebec native has shown that he is not going to be slowed down by the intensity that the playoffs have to offer. In fact, his fast-paced tenacious style of play – similar to that of Boston’s Brad Marchand – suits the playoffs well.
“He plays the game the right way – hard and straight-forward,” center David Legwand said on Wednesday. “That’s what you need in the playoffs. He’s been huge for our hockey club the first four [playoff] games. He’s going to keep ‘er going.”
Bourque has scored three goals in four games, including the game-winner in Game One. He also tallied the ice-breaker in the Predators’ 3-1 Game Four victory.
“He’s got great player values,” Trotz said of Bourque. “When I talk about player values, you talk about the work he puts in day in and day out. His detail and picking up on things, not only in video sessions but on the ice. In practice he’s very, very detailed and he’s got a high commitment factor.
“He plays every play out the way it’s supposed to be played and, therefore, he gets good results. He’s earned the right to move up the lineup and he’s passed a few others to be a full-time regular.”
Bourque was a mid-season call-up and tallied 19 points in 43 games. He has shown a great work ethic with the Predators this season, and that has obviously carried over into the ‘second season’, as some call it.
“I just go to the net,” said Bourque. “I’ve been luckier with more chances. I just have to go to the same spot in front of the net and good things will happen.”
With the top two lines not producing as well as they would like, the Predators have needed their depth players to rise to the occasion in a hard-fought series against a stingy Detroit club. Klein and Bourque have fit that bill, combining to score five of the Predators’ 11 goals and becoming unexpected heroes early in what the Predators hope is a long playoff run.
“Every year you’re going to have different people step up, and every year there’s a guy – last year it was Joel Ward, who seemed to score the important goals, make the big play,” said Trotz. “Every series has its own little hero, and every series will have the unsung hero as well that maybe isn’t getting a lot of press, but at the same time is doing really good.”
Rinne added, “It’s always fun to see guys like that who always work hard and does that quiet work in the background [get publicity].”
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