For anyone who watches the Rangers on a daily basis, the impact of defenseman Dan Girardi can’t be questioned. On a nightly basis, he logs big minutes and blocks multiple shots per game while playing a steady, consistent, stay-at-home defensive-minded game.
So it comes as no surprise to many that Girardi was recognized for his impressive season by being named by the NHL Hockey Operations Department to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game on January 29 in Ottawa.
“I never expected it, coming where I’m from, to be nominated and to represent the team.” Girardi told MSG Network’s Sam Rosen prior to Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Senators. “But I’m really excited about it, and to get to Ottawa and see what they have in store there.”
Girardi’s naming to the team shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. When voting opened back in November, some Rangers fans began a “Vote for Girardi” campaign. The campaign fizzled, thanks in part to ballot box stuffing from fans of teams in Ontario, but Girardi’s solid play continued throughout the season.
Due in part to Marc Staal’s injury that kept him out until the Winter Classic, Girardi was pressed into service to fill in as the Rangers’ top defenseman, and he filled the role admirably. Logging a career-high 27+ minutes of ice time per night, he has thus far blocked 104 shots – an average of about 2.5 per game – while also dishing out 118 hits – about 2.8 per game.
His solid play has also spilled over nicely to his defensive partner, Ryan McDonagh. After an impressive rookie campaign last season, McDonagh’s solid play has continued this year with 17 points so far, along with 63 hits and 97 blocked shots.
The path that Girardi took to the 2012 All-Star Game is a very different one than many of his teammates on Team Alfredsson (or whatever they’ll be named) – including the Rangers’ two other representatives in Ottawa, Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik.
Girardi went undrafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft before signing a two-way contract with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, splitting time during the 2005-06 season with the Wolf Pack and the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers.
On July 1, 2006, Girardi signed an NHL contract with the Rangers and started the season in Hartford. He was named to the 2007 AHL All-Star Game, but was unable to participate since the Rangers called him up to make his NHL debut on January 27 in Philadelphia.
He would not return to Hartford, playing in the Rangers’ final 34 games of that season while registering six assists. Since being called up, Girardi has been in the lineup for every single game except for two last January when he was out with a rib injury, snapping a consecutive games streak of 330.
Girardi’s style of play, a defensive-minded, team-first game, will likely mean that his role in the All-Star Game, typically an affair good for around 25-30 total goals, will not be a significant one. But to receive the honor and respect of the league to show that he is one of the top defensemen in the league is something more meaningful than just one exhibition game.