Adam Fox may be worth the price of entry, but Kris Knoblauch is one of the lucky ones to actually get paid to make the formidable 23-year-old Rangers’ sophomore a living hockey.
And that has become one of the special side effects of being assistant coach behind the bench with David Quinn on the league’s COVID log list.
« I saw him for three or four games at the rookie tournament last year and I remember there was a game where our team had 15 chances to score and I think he was in 12 of them, so I had an idea of what kind of player he was, « said Knoblauch after the 5-3 -Gardens victory over the Sabers on Monday. « But seeing him on ice in the NHL opened my eyes.
» I knew he was a good hockey player, but now I see him on ice, see the games he plays and calmly he is. Not only is he good with the puck, he’s also really good on the defensive and can read. » He’s not overly physical, but he can defend with his skills.
Fox recorded his first five-on-five goal of the season by moving forward and knocking off a rebound to end an Ice Age onslaught. He started by dragging the puck out of his own end and through the neutral zone for a 3 -1 lead late in the second period. He also added a few power play templates to finish the 100th game of his NHL career.
He has played 100 but it seems like it is 1,000, this is how advanced his game is. He’s cerebral enough to have gone to Harvard. And although everything he does is smooth as silk, on the other hand, his play can be as subtle as a brick. It’s good that Mika Zibanejad is on his side.
« Where should I start? » # 93 asked rhetorically when asked about Fox’s game and worth to the team. « He’s amazing. The way he plays with the puck everyone can see that he’s so calm, that he’s making the right decision all the time, and that he’s been really good on the defensive with Lindy this year. They were this year. » absolutely solid.
« And Foxy, I can’t believe this was his 100th game tonight. The way he plays means so much to us, offensively, defensively and of course in the power game too. “
The Rangers took a 3-1 lead with Garlic behind the bench, sneaking within two points from the Flyers who have a game and within four points from the Bruins who have three games in hand while holding last place in the divisions playoffs. He’ll be back behind the bench on Thursday when the blueshirts are in Philadelphia.
The official NHL book won’t recognize Knoblauch’s record as an acting coach – wins and losses are recorded in Quinn’s ledger – but this was one where the fill-in guy did more than just color through the permanent numbers.
Because it was Knoblauch’s decision to remove Kaapo Kakko with his colleagues Greenis Horns Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil from the unit and with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome to go on the line: 07 of the second period with Buffalo 1-0.
Six seconds later, Kakko scored a rebound on his first goal in 20 games and was a force the rest of the way while playing with Panarin and Strome stayed on the line. The Finn even scored a nice one to salt it off.
« [There were] a few things, » said Knoblauch when asked about the decision. “First, how Kaps has played the last three or four games. We felt ready for more responsibility. That was the most important thing; how well he played.
“Also, before the game, we had planned to mix up the lines a bit and give him extra ice time if the opportunity arises. With [Brett] Howden [on COVID log] we needed Blackwell for the penalty shootout so we wanted to limit his ice age.
Kaapo deserved it, the Rangers deserved it, and Fox’s parents, Bruce and Tammy, have it Milestone night watched from one of the Garden Suites and traveled from Long Island.
« I’m glad you can come to most of the home games, » said Fox, who is sure to be on the Olympic squad USA will fight in 2022, if not for this year’s Norris Trophy. « It’s special. »
The game is special. The reserved aura is something special. The subtlety and demeanor are special. The young man is worth the price of admission.
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