It’s not a popular sentiment to express but something that needs to be addressed.
Over the past few games, Dan Girardi hasn’t been playing like the All-Star caliber defenseman he’s been all season long. If you look at the tape of the Bruins game from this past Sunday, Girardi’s up-the-middle pass attempt that was intercepted and directly lead to a goal against is a prime example. Or it’s his defenders beating him with dekes Girardi would normally thwart.
These are rare occurrences that make you wonder what might be wrong with the Rangers’ quiet leader on defense.
One theory is that Dan Girardi is playing hurt.
After blocking a shot with his arm during a home game against the Devils last week, Girardi briefly left the ice to be attended to. In true warrior fashion, Girardi returned to finish the game and hasn’t missed time since. In coach Tortorella’s system where he preaches blocking shots, bumps and bruises are part of the territory and have to be done if you want ice time.
Maybe Girardi is concealing how severe the shot hurt his arm. Maybe Girardi is playing through a slew of other injuries he’s too prideful to admit. Whatever the case, Girardi’s play has dipped and if the Blueshirts want any chance of championship success this season, they need Girardi playing at his best.
Another theory, which is more plausible, is that Girardi is feeling the effects of logging major minutes game after game his year.
Only Brian Campbell (26:59) and Duncan Keith (26:57) average more ice time in the NHL than Dan Girardi (26:45). Last season, Girardi finished the season averaging 24:35 of ice time in his first season playing on the top defense pair. That’s an increase of 2:10—at one point Girardi was leading the league in average ice time. When you combine blocking shots with logging exhausting yet important minutes, it’s a recipe for disaster for anyone who’s not equipped to handle it. To this point, Girardi has proved he can handle just about anything thrown his way.
This could all be an overreaction to a slump every NHL player is guaranteed to go through during a season. For anyone who watches Girardi play remarkably consistent no matter what, seeing him struggle does remind you he’s not only human, but just how good of a player the undrafted defenseman truly is night in and night out.
With the regular season close to giving way to the playoffs, the Blueshirts have to hope whatever is causing Dan Girardi’s incredible play to slip is only temporary.