Sunday night you knew Dylan McIlrath or Tanner Glass was going to ask Wayne Simmons to step outside and settle up for his cheap shot on Ryan McDonagh. He did, and Dylan McIlrath continued winning over Ranger fans, by getting a couple licks in on Simmonds as the tussle wound down. It was a stirring start to the Rangers 3-1 win over the Flyers.
McIlrath has been a pleasant surprise to all, whether laying on a big hit, or playing solid defensive hockey, always taking advantage of his limited opportunities extended by coach Vigneault. He brings a physical element that will be so necessary in the upcoming playoffs. Yet he often sits when the team is healthy. The regular season is a elongated session of tinkering looking for the perfect lineup to hit the playoffs running. It’s not about where you finished in the standings, it’s about how well you are playing when the season ends. It’s about having your best possible lineup on the ice when the real season starts.
McIlrath has proven he needs to be in that lineup. The coaching staff has the rest of the season to play him, nurture him, and force feed him some exposure to potential playoff opponent power forwards. Give him a chance to learn on the fly, and prepare his game for the playoffs. He has shown flashes of impacting games in a way no other Ranger player can.
It’s time to take the training wheels off.