Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dan Girardi: Underrated Around The League But Not Underappreciated By Rangers

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The fact that the attention and spotlight goes to the most talented players is nothing new in sports.  When talking about the New York Rangers defense the natural topic is Marc Staal or even the play of rookies Michael Sauer and Ryan McDonagh.  Dan Girardi often gets lost in the shuffle as a key component not only to why the Rangers defense is so strong but to the success of the team as a unit.
"He's one of the more underrated players in this league, I'll tell you that right now," Tortorella said. "I think Marc gets a lot of the notoriety. Danny wasn't drafted and all that stuff. But he's a good player. He continues to get better."
The 26-year-old Girardi was an undrafted defenseman who little was expected of when he came up five years ago.  In the five years since he has become a top pair defender in the NHL because of how he plays.  The Rangers have built their identity around the idea of being larger than their individual talents, being tough to play against and willing to sacrifice for one another.  Girardi does that every night with the way he blocks shots and uses the talents he has as a stay at home defender to do his job.
For anyone around the league who does not know who Dan Girardi is or how well he plays at this level they should ask every opposing top line player that plays against New York and has him pair with Marc Staal to shut them down.  
Girardi’s offensive contributions also get easily overlooked in comparison with his more famous partner.  In 80 games this season he had four goals and 27 assists to establish a new career high 31 points.  The biggest difference for Girardi on the offensive side of the ice is that he is doing a much better job of getting shots through from the point this year for deflections than he was in the past.  His trademark will always be his positionally sound defense with shot blocking, but he is a contributor on the other end.
It is easy to overlook the job that Girardi does and what it allows Marc Staal to do, but the New York Rangers are well aware of how valuable he is to this team.
"I think the experience helps," Staal said. "He sits back a little more, allows me to get into the rush when I feel the opportunity to jump in. Communication is a big thing for us, too. We talk a lot on the ice and on the bench just to work things out if they're not going our way."

Whether he gets the credit he deserves in the media the team and fans cannot overlook the critical role that Girardi plays to the success of the Rangers.  In the meantime you will find Girardi diving on the ice to throw himself in front of another shot to do whatever he can to help this team win.