In the National Hockey League, offensive defensemen tend to get far more credit than the defensive defensemen. That’s especially true in the case of the New York Rangers, where several rising stars make up the blue line, including Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, and Michael Del Zotto.
As tough a road as it has been for Dan Girardi to reach the NHL, it wasn’t until this past season where he finally saw some recognition as one of the league’s best defensive blue liners.
Girardi earned his way to his current spot with the Rangers. He went undrafted in 2003 and played well enough at each level to earn himself a shot with the Blueshirts during the 2006-2007 season. Since that shot, he has not looked back.
Though he isn’t going to put up a ton of points from the blue line, Girardi is the type of guy that every team wants in their defensive corps. He’s big, he’s durable, and he doesn’t allow much to get past him, whether it’s an opposing forward or the puck.
This past season, Girardi was named an All Star for the first time in his career. It was some validation for a guy who has been very good since he got his opportunity for the Rangers. He finished the season with 29 points, was a plus-13, and finished with over 200 hits, tops among Ranger defensemen.
In five full seasons with the Rangers, Girardi has missed just two games. That’s pretty remarkable considering the rate at which he blocks shots and racks up the hits. He blocked 236 shots in 2010-11 and over 180 last season. And he led the entire league in ice time, with over 28 minutes a game.
Dan Girardi truly has become one of the premier shutdown defensemen in the National Hockey League. He’s big and he’s physical, but he’s also the type of guy you can throw out against the opposition’s best forwards and know he’s going to slow them down, if not shut them down completely. He may not bring it on the offensive end like some, but on defense, he’s as steady as they come.
It was great for him to finally get some validation for that last season. He was named an All Star and wore an ‘A’ for the Rangers. He’ll be a key piece of this team as they hope to contend for the Stanley Cup for next season and beyond.