So much so, he reminds Mark Messier of Wayne Gretzky.
“He’s got the Gretzky Factor, he sees things that nobody else does,” the Blueshirts legend told The Post ahead of Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning at Madison Square Garden. “He’s playing chess and everybody else is playing checkers.
“His anticipation, the way he sees the ice and the skill set to take advantage of it, handle the puck in tight areas, never panics … just an incredible hockey player.”
The defenseman has five goals and 13 assists so far for the Blueshirts entering this series against Tampa Bay, the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champions. Fox had a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ dominating Game 7 win at the Hurricanes in the previous round.
The Rangers have won two topsy-turvy, seven-game series to get to this point. They rallied from a 3-1 deficit to down the Penguins in the first round, then climbed out of a 2-0 hole against Carolina. It’s unlikely they can play from behind like that again with the Lightning. Tampa Bay will be their toughest test yet.
“You talk about a very young team going up against the Stanley Cup champions. They’re going to face a team, and obviously a goaltender, that they haven’t seen in these playoffs, so it’s gonna be a much different challenge for them in many ways,” Messier told The Post.
“But I think the Rangers have a goalie that can match (Andrei) Vasilevskiy in a lot of ways, so that’s the good news. And again, it always gets down to not what you get but what you give up. I think they’re gonna have to be a lot better defensively certainly in front of their own net. Tampa has some incredible talented players that will take advantage of those kind of mistakes, more so than the last two series. If they can do that, limit the shot numbers — 40 shots in Game 6 is too many in a Game 6 like that, (Igor) Shesterkin’s been able to hold ’em out. Specialty teams become huge this time of year.”
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]