New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

Dylan McIlrath and the New York Rangers handed Wayne Simmonds and the Philadelphia Flyers a convincing 3-1 loss last night. 

By Chris Wengert

There was a buzz at Madison Square Garden last night even before the New York Rangers took to the ice.

You could tell that the Rangers fans in attendance were eager, not just for a win over the rival Flyers, but also for revenge.

Revenge for Wayne Simmond’s cheap shot on Ranger’s captain Ryan McDonagh.

But in these situations the anticipation of revenge or retribution is often more hype than anything else.

More often than not, the players focus on the game and the extra-curricular matters take care of themselves.

Dylan McIlrath had other plans.

There was some chirping between McIlrath and Simmonds before the puck even dropped and less than a minute into the game, the gloves dropped.

The crowd went wild, and while the boxing match was mostly a draw, McIlrath’s point was well received by the Garden Faithful.

There was also this interesting tidbit from Simmonds:

From a strategic standpoint, the McIlrath/Simmonds fight was probably the best thing that could have happened for the Rangers.

Not only did the fight energize the crowd and players, but it also put one of the Flyers best forwards in the penalty box for five minutes.

Tanner Glass would finish what McIlrath started just seconds later, this time with Flyers center Ryan White.

While revenge is fine and dandy, the Rangers needed to find some jump early in this game to avoid an ugly affair.

Derick Brassard would oblige only five minutes in with a Stephane Matteau-like wrap-around.

This was a great decision by Brassard, who has been especially pass-happy lately. Sometimes just putting the puck on net will lead to positive results.

After Brassard’s goal both teams clamped down and the game became a defensive battle.

Both teams did a great job of clogging up the neutral zone, which stifled the speed of the game. The Rangers played especially well in their own zone last night.

They didn’t chase the puck carrier, executed strong positioning, and clogged the shooting lanes.

And that’s exactly what they needed to do, especially against a Philly team that is not particularly fast or talented.

Visit Elite’s New York Rangers Center

The Rangers had some scoring chances in the offensive zone but were not able to establish their fore check like they have in the past few games. Their strong defensive play helped to make up this.

The Rangers really need to fix their turnover problem, and it is becoming a consistent problem. A quicker or more talented team would make them pay for these mistakes (Los Angeles Kings).

Against the Penguins it was Marc Staal, but last night it was Keith Yandle who turned over the puck on a few occasions when trying to thread the needle on stretch passes.

Speaking of Yandle.

While I understand the Ranger’s cap situation is about as tight as it gets, trading Keith Yandle would be a mistake. He is said to have a strong presence in the locker room and he moves the puck unlike any defenseman the Rangers have had in a while.

Mats Zuccarello didn’t score last night, but he was by far one of the best Rangers on the ice. His assist of Derek Stepan‘s goal was a thing of beauty.

Zuccarello is one of those players that can raise the battle level of the entire Rangers team. You notice when he has the puck because his soft hands and speed are unmatched by most of the Rangers roster.

Derek Stepan’s goals were almost identical, and gave me flashbacks to the Game 7 overtime goal against the Washington Captials.

But man was he bad on the power play.

On two separate occasions Stepan forced passes that ended up on Philly sticks. Turnovers like this can’t happen, especially when the Rangers have the advantage.

Simplify the power play strategy and the goals will come.

I’m not sure if it translated to television, but Henrik Lundqvist was visibly upset at Marc Staal for not covering Brayden Schenn on the lone Flyers goal. He actually slapped his stick onto the ice and started screaming at Staal.

Maybe it is time to make Marc Staal a healthy scratch for a game.

The Rangers need to fix the trend that they have been setting of allowing teams to score late in games.

While it didn’t affect the outcome of this contest, there have been a number of instances (Washington, LA) when the Rangers have allowed teams back into games with just minutes or seconds left on the clock.

One thing is for sure, they need to fix this before April because you cannot play like that in the playoffs.

Not to mention it stunk for Hank, who was only nine seconds away from his fourth shutout of the season. Lundqvist wasn’t tested much by Philly, but he did shut the door when the Rangers needed him too.

The Rangers will be back in action Wednesday in another great measuring stick game against the Chicago Blackhawks. 

NEXT: NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby ‘Quietly’ Maintaining Elite Level

I've been a die hard Rangers and Giants fan for as long as I can remember. I enjoy sharing opinions, and hearing from fans that love their teams just as much as I do. Henrik Lundqvist makes all of us look like mere mortals. E-mail me at: