NY Rangers lines tonight: Adam Fox returns
May 6, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Rangers are headed to the playoffs barring an historic collapse. Their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 6 points, as the Florida Panthers can only top out at 99 points to the Rangers current 94 points. They still have a shot at overtaking the NJ Devils for home-ice in the first round. While load management is out the window, there will still be concerns with managing minutes of the stars down the road, notably with some special teams limitations. Starting on the blue line, is limiting Adam Fox’s penalty kill minutes the way to go?

It may not seem logical, since Fox is the Rangers’ best defenseman and in the top-three in the league. Stars win games, especially in the playoffs. But there is also a strong argument for limiting minutes down the stretch to keep players fresh. Adam Fox’s penalty kill minutes are certainly one way to limit his minutes, but will the Rangers do more harm than good?

Per Natural Stat Trick, Adam Fox is one of four Rangers defensemen with regular time on the penalty kill. He leads the team in total PK TOI with 158:04, a little ahead of Jacob Trouba’s 157:34. His results are far better than last year’s too, when we had suggested it may be best to limit his time back in September.

Fox is limiting opposing powerplays to a 90.33 CA/60, behind only K’Andre Miller (89.6). His xGA/60 is down to 7.63, behind Miller’s 6.54 again. This is an improvement on last year’s numbers, where he was dead last on the team in penalty kill effectiveness. So limiting Adam Fox’s penalty kill minutes might do more harm than good, at least with immediate results.

But we do need to ask ourselves what is more important. Should the Rangers go for results to close out the season? Or should they limit Adam Fox’s penalty kill minutes and perhaps introduce Braden Schneider to a little more responsibility down the stretch? Schneider is used as the 5th defenseman on the penalty kill, and getting him more time may be beneficial for the playoffs. Same with Niko Mikkola, who hasn’t seen much PK time since the trade.

Limiting Adam Fox’s penalty kill minutes is certainly a double edged sword that won’t have an answer any time soon. Perhaps in April when the Rangers are locked into either the #2 or #3 seed, they will start to manage minutes. But for now, expect Fox to continue to get 25 minutes a night, with at least two minutes of that down a man. After all, play your best players, right?