The Rangers have been blessed since Adam Fox was shot into their arms through a flawless reception for the 2019-20 season. They have benefited from the uncommon instincts, intelligence and talent of defensemen on both ends of the ice.
And they have benefited from Fox’s endurance and ability to stay healthy. In fact, he’s unusually healthy, as No. 23 has missed a total of three games due to injury in the first four seasons of his career (and another after entering COVID protocol).
But now there will probably be even more. And there could be a lot more after Fox received a leg-on-leg strike from Carolina’s Sebastian Aho across the Canes’ line with just over 5:30 left in the first period that took him out of Thursday’s game at Garden repressed.
Fox and Filip Chytil, who finally left the contest late in the second half with an unidentified upper-body injury following an initial collision with Jesper Fast, will be examined Friday, according to head coach Peter Laviolette.
There’s a lot to like about these Rangers, who overcame those crucial losses and extended their winning streak to six games with this 2-1 win on Will Cuylle’s game-winning wrist shot from the slot at 10:21 of the third period. After ten games and a record of 8-2, you like the resilience of the club, their discipline, their goalkeeping, their attention to detail and their ability to work hard.
What you probably don’t like is the depth of the club. They’ll probably get the chance now if either Fox or Chytil – or both – are sidelined for more than a short period of time. Now you may remember that no one, but no one, felt any sympathy for the Avalanche when they were without Cale Makar for a long stretch last season.
However, the Rangers did their best in this game and actually saved their best 20 minutes for the final 20 minutes when defensemen Braden Schneider and Erik Gustafsson were given more time and more time at the top was given to presumed fourth-liner Jimmy Vesey. Barclay Goodrow and Nick Bonino.
Goodrow moved from the left side of the fourth unit to midfielders Cuylle and Blake Wheeler on the third line, while Vincent Trocheck took Chytil’s spot between Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere. Vesey used his stick to deflect a pass into the stands, where Carolina applied pressure with the extra attacker in the final minute. Bonino and Goodrow took the last shift.
If Fox is out for a while, as is likely, Zac Jones will get his chance after being left out in nine of the first 10 games. Laviolette could conceivably pair Schneider with Ryan Lindgren while keeping the Trouba-K’Andre Miller tandem intact and Jones running with Gustafsson.
It’s not ideal, but it’s hockey.
In an uneventful game, the Rangers were eventful enough to earn another win. They responded in this match, where referees Steve Kozari and TJ Luxmore appeared to be wearing candy-cane-colored glasses, ignoring or missing two obvious high sticks over the Blueshirt faces, as did Aho’s strike. They increased their energy levels in a low energy competition.
Of course, Trouba wanted a piece of Aho. There was more than one occasion where the captain attempted to attack the Carolina center. But Aho wanted nothing to do with it. He wanted no part of Trouba.
“I have to fight every time I do something, so I figured he should probably be held accountable for that too,” said Trouba, who played 17:56 in the final two periods, a team-high 24:56 corresponds. “He didn’t feel that way…not just about me, about everyone.”
The Rangers had all kinds of trouble generating a five-on-five offense. They scored 2:41 into the game on Chris Kreider’s sixth power play goal – and seventh overall – of the year to give them a 1-0 lead, which the Canes erased with a PPG of their own at 9:53. The Blueshirts entered the third period tied, without two of their key players and in trouble.
So they responded by pushing the issue and playing in the Carolina zone even when their power play failed and Gustafsson replaced Fox after the point. They responded with their best time of the night in the most adverse conditions.
The Rangers have played four one-goal games, the last three in a row. They won them all, this time in the third period after two games in overtime. There’s been a lot to like so far. Now we get the opportunity to find out about its depth.