The Wraparound: Don’t forget Adam Fox’s role in Rangers’ run

The Wraparound: Don't forget Adam Fox's role in Rangers' run
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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• The Avalanche shut out Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Oilers to take a 2-0 series lead.

• Was it another argument that rest isn’t worth the rust? Or are we overlooking the rise of the Rangers’ “Kid Line” and other factors after they beat the Lightning in Game 1? Either way, we get to see how the defending repeat champions respond in Game 2 on Friday.

• Nice news for a player who’s been through a lot: defenseman Jake Gardiner was cleared for next season.

• For the first time in 19 seasons as an NHL head coach, Flames bench boss Darryl Sutter won a Jack Adams Award.

After impressively winning Game 1 against the Lightning (not to mention resilient comebacks versus the Penguins and Hurricanes), people are understandably lavishing the Rangers with praise.

  • Most obviously, this playoff run is emphasizing the all-world capabilities of Igor Shesterkin. You may have heard Rangers fans (dangerously?) chanting “Igor’s better” in Game 1.
  • “The Kid Line” is giving the Rangers the sort of boost people have been waiting for.
  • We’re getting a taste of how scary Mika Zibanejad can be on a hot streak.
  • Some will basically trip over their own feet to make it about toughness, grit, or rust.

When praising the Rangers during what feels like an earlier-than-expected run to an Eastern Conference Final, don’t forget about Adam Fox. Considering his start to the series, Fox set the bar high for himself as the Rangers try to expand their series lead over the Lightning in Game 2 Friday night (8 p.m. ET).

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

On one hand, it’s strange to say “don’t forget Adam Fox.”

After all, the 24-year-old is the reigning Norris Trophy winner. While I’d argue it’s a contract that will quickly look like a sneaky-bargain (see: Leon Draisaitl’s $8.5M quickly looking like a steal), it’s not like Fox is underpaid. Starting next season, he will carry a $9.5M cap hit.

Yet … it still feels a bit like people are taking some time to come around on just how great Fox has been. Maybe it’s as simple as this: few defensemen make such an immediate impact upon jumping to the NHL.

Perhaps it’s because Fox puts the Rangers in positions to succeed in a less dramatic way than Cale Makar. That’s no knock on Fox. Just about every defensemen looks positively pedestrian compared to Makar.

(Heck, there aren’t a lot of skaters who burn opponents in open space quite like Makar.)

[Conn Smythe watch: McDavid, Shesterkin lead after two rounds]

So far this postseason, Fox ranks first among NHL playoff defensemen with an impressive 20 points in 15 games. Across the Rangers team, only Mika Zibanejad (21 points) scored more points than Fox.

Now, sure, he has received more reps, being that the Rangers went through two Game 7s. But the point is that, a lot like Makar, Fox is converting his regular-season mastery to tremendous playoff results.

Truly, the Rangers lean on Fox as much as you would a grizzled veteran No. 1 defenseman. He’s logging 26:45 TOI, one of the heaviest workloads of any defensemen. (Victor Hedman‘s at a modest-by-his-standards 24:55 per game.)

As a skilled and shrewd blueliner, Fox’s brilliance isn’t just about nuances. The Game 7 goal Fox scored was the sort that really deflated the Hurricanes:

Fox noticed by Rangers legend Brian Leetch

If nothing else, Brian Leetch is noticing. Leetch praised Fox’s work in a recent discussion with The Athletic’s Arthur Staple (sub. required).

“When I got to the playoffs I wanted to be the best I could and (make people) compare me to the other great players in the league,” Leetch said. “Adam’s approach is, he’s a very competitive guy. If they’re saying Makar’s better or someone else is better, there’s no question his attitude will be, ‘Oh yeah? I’ll show you who’s better.’ He may not show it, and I didn’t always show it, but he’s got the drive to be the best. You don’t play the way he does, especially this time of year, without having that.”

Fox really might just be the best defenseman in the NHL right now. If nothing else, he’s holding up his end of the debate alongside the likes of Makar, Hedman, and others during the Rangers’ deep playoff run.

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Eastern Conference Final

NEW YORK RANGERS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (NYR leads 1-0)

Game 1 – Rangers 6, Lightning 2
Game 2 – June 3: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 3 – June 5: Rangers at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 7: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 9: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 6 – June 11: Rangers at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 7 – June 14: Lightning at Rangers, 8 p.m. ET, (ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS)

* If necessary

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Western Conference Final

EDMONTON OILERS v. COLORADO AVALANCHE (COL leads 2-0)
Game 1 : Avalanche 8, Oilers 6
Game 2: Avalanche 4, Oilers 0
Game 3 – June 4: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 6: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 8: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD
*Game 6 – June 10: Avalanche at Oilers, TBD
*Game 7 – June 12: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD

* If necessary

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