Adam Fox’s revival is just what Rangers need against Penguins

Adam Fox is the only defenseman to ever win the Norris Trophy before playing in an official NHL playoff game. And when No. 23 made his debut in Rangers’ 105-minute, 58-second adventure in Game 1 on Tuesday night, a 4-3 overtime triple loss to the Penguins, he was playing at Norris Trophy level.

“Fox is Fox” after a few months of “This Ain’t Like Adam” is some of the best news from the opener for the Rangers, who will face off in Game 2 on Thursday against what comes so close to the first must-win situation of the tenure of head coach Gerard Gallant, how they will come up to the actual retirement.

The Blueshirts need their best players to be their best players from start to finish. Igor Shesterkin, who made 79 saves, more than kept his end of the bargain in Game 1. So did K’Andre Miller, who led the club with 44:38 ice time, and Fox, who played 10 seconds short of them.

“I would definitely say it was my first playoff game,” said Fox, who played in those three (dis)qualifier games in 2020 under the hermetically sealed bubble. “That atmosphere and intensity was completely different. Of course I would have liked to have had a different result, but it was fun to be there.”

Fox’s underlying numbers were misleading after he was slightly beaten in his 11:34 match against Sidney Crosby. The idea is to keep No. 87 in his own end and not allow his line, which includes Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, to gain speed through the neutral zone and force the defense to back down. Rangers gave away way too much good ice cream in Game 1.

“I think being more physical is one thing we can do,” Fox said. “They have a group of pretty smart players on that line so I think you have to be mentally smart too and be in the right positions.

Adam Fox (right) plays the puck against the Penguins' Brock McGinn in the first game of their first round playoff series.
Adam Fox (right) plays the puck against the Penguins’ Brock McGinn in Game 1 of the first round series.
NHLI via Getty Images

“Being physical, moving your feet and trying to stay in front of them is great. We want to slow them down a bit and not give them so much time and space.”

Fox was a choreographer in Game 1, moving the puck, directing and generating the offense. He opened the top scorer with a power-play goal in the first third from the top to the club’s only man advantage at the marathon. His decent dish from an Artemi Panarin relay almost made Ryan Strome the winner, leaving 4:15 in the first OT.

In addition, Fox also played with some muscles. He was credited with four goals, including one where he plastered Brock McGinn seven minutes into the game.

He seemed to play instinctively and play to his strengths after perhaps thinking too much about it or taking on too much for a few months. The 24-year-old just couldn’t seem to be himself after suffering an upper-body injury that sidelined him for the three games before the All-Star break. But he was safe on Tuesday.

“I don’t think I was nervous,” said Fox, who had seven shots to 10 in addition to his tally and six blocked shots. “Of course you generally get a bit of butterflies before a big game, but I think it was more exciting just to be at home and know that you got the crowd behind you.

Adam Fox celebrates a goal in the first period against the Penguins.
Adam Fox celebrates a goal in the first period against the Penguins.
USA TODAY sports

“After those first few shifts, you get used to it and treat it like another game. The first 10 [minutes] are usually the most intense, people just trying to get a hit or keep it easy. The longer the game lasts, the easier it is to try and keep up.

“With a game that lasts so long, your legs get tired, you try not to make mistakes and keep it a little easier, but overall I don’t want to change too much,” he said. “I’m just trying to play in the same way and up that intensity a little bit.”

Fox right hand man and companion Ryan Lindgren is dealing with a lower body problem he contracted during the third period of the regular season finale on April 29 against Washington. Lindgren missed the first 17:26 of the third period, played through the first two overtimes, but couldn’t leave the room for the third OT.

Therefore, Fox received 7:46 of five against five with Patrik Nemeth, 5:16 with Miller, 2:46 with Jacob Trouba, and 1:16 with Braden Schneider. Fox played 83.16 percent of his five-a-side minutes this season and 72.08 percent during his three years in the league with Lindgren. Gallant said Lindgren is “a little bruised” but is expected to play in Game 2.

If not, or if No. 55 – who may not have taken as much blood this year as last but has been punished both physically and – is simply too compromised to be a win, then the coach would have to choose between Nemeth and either Justin Braun or Libor Hajek as Fox’s sidekick. Gallant will not break up the Miller-Trouba tandem.

Losing Lindgren wouldn’t be ideal. But Fox is sure to be Fox again. Adam Fox’s revival is just what Rangers need against Penguins


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