For nine seasons, Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi has put his body on the line and pushed through the pain barrier to remain one of the league’s most durable defensemen.
Girardi constantly throws his body in front of shots. While competing for the puck, he’s often on the receiving end of high sticks and elbows. Regular folks collect the mail and read the paper every day as part of their daily routine. Girardi collects battle scars as if it’s part of his daily routine.
“He blocks five-to-10 shots every night,” Hagelin said. “You can see that he shows a lot of character when he plays through pain. I’ve never seen a player go through that much pain, and he still hasn’t missed many games.”
Girardi has only missed five regular season games since his first full season in 2007-08. Since making his playoff debut in 2007, Girardi hasn’t missed a playoff game. He’s suited up for 89 of 89 postseason contests.
The tough-minded 30-year-old ranks seventh overall in the league with 176 blocked shots. Girardi’s 213 hits makes him fifth-highest among defenseman. Against Winnipeg last Tuesday, the Rangers blocked 24 shots. Girardi was responsible for 10 blocked shots.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind player,” Yandle said. “You know what you’re going to get with him every night. Dan is a guy who brings it every night. He’s hard to play against. He’s a warrior who blocks shots, he plays offensive minutes and defensive minutes. For someone so steady defensively, he can also makes plays offensively. He’s really good at that.”
Yandle recalled a moment in last Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild when Girardi went down to block a shot and was hit in an unprotected area on his thigh.
“For instance, when we were playing against the Wild, ‘G’ got hit in the thigh,” Yandle said. “He got hit right where there wasn’t any padding. It didn’t even faze him. He didn’t even have a grimace on his face when he came back to the bench. He’s definitely a horse, and the kind of guy you definitely want to have on your team.”
Hagelin believes that Girardi’s unique combination of all-out effort and gentlemanly style of play makes him one of the more respected defensemen around the league. Last season, Girardi only committed 16 penalty minutes in 81 games. Through 78 games this season, he has received 20 PIM.
“He’s a leader,” Hagelin said. “Guys know that he plays hard, but he’s a clean player. He’s respected around the league.”
Having joined the Rangers on Mar. 1, Yandle is impressed by Girardi’s ability to make intelligent plays and alert decisions.
“He’s calm on the puck,” Yandle said. “He doesn’t make too many mistakes. When he has the puck, he usually makes the right play. When he doesn’t have the puck, he’s usually in the right spots. So, I think just overall the way he is on the ice and the calmness about him are pretty special things to see.”
Girardi’s reliable defending and bright awareness helped the Rangers win the Eastern Conference and reach the Stanley Cup Final last season. With the playoffs just around the corner, he will be leaned on to play a major role in the Blueshirts’ hunt for their first Stanley Cup championship since 1994.
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