Fox’s star shines brightly in Rangers win over Coyotes on Broadway


When you’re struggling to get out of a slump, sometimes you need your best player to life everyone up. Adam Fox is that star who shines brightly on Broadway. He continued his remarkable play with a goal and assist to highlight a much needed Rangers 4-1 win over the Coyotes.

Now 24, Fox looks to be chasing another Norris Trophy. Although it’s early in the season, he’s been brilliant despite the 8-6-3 record. After playing over 29 minutes in a frustrating one-goal loss at Nashville, all he did was log over 26 minutes and score a big goal that followed up a gift to Barclay Goodrow late in the second period.

The two goals came 78 seconds apart to break open a scoreless game. Buoyed by the penalty kill that forced Arizona backup Connor Ingram into three tough shorthanded saves, the Rangers finally raised their energy. It had been severely lacking in a flat first period that saw the ‘Yotes out-shoot them 17-4. At one point, Arizona lead in shots 12-1.

Unable to beat Ingram in a more inspired second, they got an early Thanksgiving dessert from the backup goalie. On a risky back pass by his own defenseman Juuso Valimaki that caught him by surprise, Ingram panicked and gave away the puck right to Goodrow for an easy goal into an open side at 15:05.

That misplay opened things up. On an Artemi Panarin forecheck, he passed back for a cutting Filip Chytil. His first attempt was blocked. Then, his second deflected right out to a pinching Fox, who drove home his fifth to suddenly make it 2-0 with 3:37 left.

It was the kind of skilled play fans come to expect from Fox. A player who it’s hard to believe went 66th overall in the third round of the 2016 Draft to Calgary. It’s a good thing he wanted NYC. He had no intention of signing with the Flames or the Hurricanes. That allowed the Rangers to steak him for two conditional second picks nobody’s ever heard of.

Let’s face it. It’s not like the Rangers could produce this kind of superstar player on their own. They haven’t seen the likes of such a stud defenseman since Brian Leetch. By posting a goal and assist in the team’s 17th game, Fox is up to 19 points (5-14-19) so far. Last season, he had 74 (11-63-74) in 78 games.

The way he’s going, it looks like Fox has a good chance of going over a point-per-game. Something a New York Rangers defenseman hasn’t done since Leetch in ’95-96. The greatest defenseman in franchise history scored 15 goals and tallied 70 assists for 85 points in 82 games that season. Previously, it was Sergei Zubov who lead the club in assists (77) and points (89) during their Stanley Cup season in ’93-94.

After going without a point versus the Flyers on Nov. 1, Fox has caught fire with 10 points (3-7-10) over a current six-game point streak. At least after playing a combined 55 minutes this weekend, the Rangers’ most valuable skater can get a few days of rest before they embark on a four-game Western swing. They will travel to Seattle to face the improved Kraken on Thursday before making stops in San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim between 11/17 to 11/23.

Imagine where they’d be without him. Nobody else on the blue line is even in the same stratosphere as Fox. It’s Foxy returns for the bright American star who’ll be competing with Cale Makar, the reborn Erik Karlsson and possibly the surprising Hampus Lindholm of the unbelievable Bruins. As brilliant as Karlsson has been for the Sharks, you have to think Fox will pass him with Makar probably catching up.

Of course, none of this stuff matters. What does is that the Blueshirts got in the ‘W’ column. They didn’t play close to their best game against a Coyotes team who also played the night before. They lost to the red hot Devils 4-2. The Devils have won nine in a row. Hasan has you covered there.

It’s more important for the Rangers to build on this win. For over 35 minutes, nothing happened of note against the Coyotes. A team that plays an honest game built on a surprising number three ranked power play. They move the puck quickly and look for shots with traffic in front. A more simplistic approach than the home team.

If not for Igor Shesterkin, it could’ve been a different result. He more than held his own in a lopsided first period. It was the more aggressive Coyotes who had better skating legs and carried the play early. Shesterkin came up large on an abbreviated five-on-three that lasted a dozen seconds. He really was the difference in stopping all 17 shots including a few tough ones on the consecutive Arizona power plays.

Although I questioned Gerard Gallant going with Jaro Halak on Saturday night and holding out Shesterkin for the second game, that proved to be the right decision. They sure didn’t lose in Nashville due to Halak. That was already covered. He was just unlucky again. Yet you have some yo-yo’s who blame him. Do yourselves a favor and watch with your eyes open.

If there was a disappointing aspect, it was Gallant’s refusal to bench K’Andre Miller. He hasn’t played close to good enough. Honestly, he deserved to sit after his latest bad game. Instead, the Rangers PR face continues to escape unpunished.

Instead, Zac Jones sat for a third consecutive game in favor of Libor Hajek. Why is anyone’s guess. They still use Jacob Trouba on the second power play. It’s moot the way Gallant relies on the top unit. He better hope they don’t run out of gas by next March. They sure get a lot of minutes. The problem is every player except the defense optional Panarin plays penalty kill. That’s one way to run your top players into the ground.

While everyone realizes the importance of making up for some bad losses by starting to bank points which they should have the opportunity to do on the road trip, Turk must avoid over-playing the stars. It’s not even the quarter mark. Use common sense. He was able to get away with mostly shortening the bench to three lines for most of the third due to the off days.

It helped matters that Fox again helped set up a Chris Kreider power play goal less than give minutes into the third which sealed the victory. Kaapo Kakko drew a tripping minor on Nick Bjugstad. Even though it was again the third line who did the grunt work, out came the first unit.

They had the puck for almost the entirety of the third power play. After an Arizona clear down ice, they got it set up. With time growing short, Fox finally made a good pass in the left circle for Mika Zibanejad. He then made an even better play, sending a shot pass towards Kreider that took a funny carom off the shaft of his stick past Ingram top shelf for the beautiful power play goal.

All Kreider could do was chuckle. He obviously didn’t get the part of the blade on it that he wanted. But it wound up looking like he took a half swing like in baseball and got rewarded with a base hit. It gave him goals in three of his last four games. Following an off night against the Preds, he picked up his 10th point over the last nine games. Ever since he said they’d start going in, they have.

In what was a penalty marred game where the refs handed out Zibanejad a ridiculous interference minor for banging into Ingram after he made a save outside the paint where the Rangers center had nowhere to go, they had a make-up call with five seconds left in the second for a phantom trip on Nick Ritchie. That’s how it was called. When you have both coaches shaking their heads and one laughing, you know it wasn’t a good night for the stripes.

The linesmen also missed an offside on a Coyotes entry. Even Sam Rosen pointed it out during the broadcast on MSG. Good thing nothing happened during the ‘Yotes zone time. It’s astonishing how frequently they miss it. No wonder you have offsides coach’s challenges. The league has a two referee system with two linesmen, but have to cover their own asses. It’s more and more like the NFL every day.

With his team ahead by three, Ryan Lindgren took down Christian Fischer behind the Rangers net. Of course, he protested because no player ever thinks they committed a penalty. It was an obvious hooking minor.

After some real struggles with their last three in which it was the Rangers penalty killers who generated better shorthanded opportunities due to their aggressive puck pursuit, the Coyotes finally made it count.

With time winding down, Travis Boyd worked the puck over to Ritchie. He then made a nice pass across for an open Clayton Keller, who made no mistake snapping a wrist shot up top with a slow recovering Shesterkin still down. He didn’t look right on the goal. He previously had skated over to the bench during a stoppage. Hopefully, it’s nothing too serious. He stayed in the game.

However, the Coyotes took a bad penalty only 30 seconds later. Rookie forward Mattias Maccelli came up and caught Kreider with a high stick to go off for two minutes. Although they didn’t score on the man-advantage, the momentum from it allowed the Rangers to put the game away.

After the penalty expired, Gallant actually sent out Ryan Carpenter. Playing for the first time in three games, he was able to redirect a Braden Schneider point shot by Ingram for his first goal of the season. It came with 8:17 remaining. That restored the three-goal lead.

As tough as I’ve been on Carpenter who’s an hard-working player that can take face-offs and kill penalties, there’s nothing wrong with having him as an extra forward. That’s likely what he’ll be if Vitaly Kravtsov can recover from the stomach flu. Good for Carpenter. He only played 7:48 including 39 seconds on the penalty kill and the last few on the final power play. It’s nice to see him get rewarded.

Although it wasn’t a Picasso or Renoir, they’ll take it. It’s the final home game until after Thanksgiving. The Oilers will visit on Saturday, Nov. 26 followed by those Devils on Monday the 28th. Those should be good tests.

Hopefully by then, they’ll be playing better. It really shouldn’t be any worse than taking three out of four on the upcoming road trip. All four games are winnable. But expect it to be competitive. Especially in Seattle, San Jose and LA.

They can thank both Fox and Shesterkin for getting the victory tonight. It wasn’t as easy as the final score indicated. Finally a few days off. Enjoy the week.

THEEE STARS OF GAME

3rd 🌟 Barclay Goodrow, NYR goal (4th), 5-10 on draws, +2 in 16:10 incl. 5:39 shorthanded

2nd 🌟 🤩 Igor Shesterkin, NYR 31 saves on 32 shots incl. 17/17 in 1st, 22/22 ES & 7/8 SH

1st 🌟 🤩 ⭐️ Adam Fox, NYR goal (5th) plus 🍎, 2 SOG, +1 in 26:43 incl. 12:24 on special teams

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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