Dan Girardi has played really well during this winning streak

Girardi celebrates a goal he started (Getty Images)

Dan Girardi is starting to look really good as of late. Quietly he is stepping up and making a lot of solid plays during this Rangers 3 game winning streak. The fact that the Rangers have committed to playing a better defensive game as a team is likely a large factor in his improved play, but he should be recognized for it as well.

Doing Stay-At-Home Defenseman Things

The 32 year old defenseman has never been an offensive blue-liner. Girardi built his entire NHL career on being the defensive partner to a more offensive minded player. For the last seven years he has been paired with Ryan McDonagh, but before that he saw time with Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival to name a few.

Girardi (USATSI)

Girardi was then and is now known for taking the body, clearing the crease, and blocking shots. He has never been considered a smooth skating, great passing and scoring defensemen. Matter of fact his stay at home style led to a 6th place finish for the Norris Trophy in 2011-12. For the record, Ryan McDonagh has never placed higher than 8th in voting.

In the Rangers last three games, he has stepped up and produced. He’s doing so by playing steady and gritty defense that the Rangers so desperately need him to play. During this 3 game winning streak, good old Dan has blocked 14 shots, delivered 4 hits in about 19:40 of ice per game.

Now, if you base good play on corsi (possession stats) as your benchmark, you will continue to say he’s horrible. He’s posted a 50, 24, and 31 CF% 5V5 in the last three games. Not very good, unless you step back and see that he and Ryan McDonagh each had a 24% against Detroit while facing their best players. And while almost every Ranger was miserable against the Kings, Girardi’s 31 was best among all defensemen playing more than 13 minutes (only Skjei and Clendening were higher in less action).

Remember, all those big blocks count as a negative corsi event. So regardless if he blocked a goal from going in or not, it is calculated as a bad play. Starting in the defensive zone almost 58% of the time and defending leads late also won’t help your corsi numbers either.

Killing It On The PK

One thing that seems to be overlooked during this three game winning streak is the Rangers PK is a perfect 7-7. This is mostly due to the resurgent play of Henrik Lundqvist, and as the Rangers last line of defense he deserves the accolades.

Still, Dan Girardi has been a beast for the Rangers on the PK. Ryan McDonagh leads the Rangers PK with 7:08 while Girardi has killed 6:54 himself. Pretty impressive stuff no matter how you slice it. When it comes to a player like Girardi, these are the things that make him stand out.

It’s Not All About Defense

While blocking shots and killing penalties are Girardi’s hallmark trademarks, he can make the occasional gem of an offensive play. Last night on the Rangers second goal, Girardi made an outlet pass that generated an odd man rush for the tally.

It’s a play he’s capable of making and he did so last night in a big spot. The Rangers were basically on their heels all game, and in an instant, Girardi turned a loose puck the other way with a tape-to-tape pass…while skating backwards.

A little admiration and credit is deserved.

Girardi now has 3 goals and 9 points just a little more than halfway through the season. Last year he scored 17, so he isn’t that far off his pace. His career high was 31 and that was way back in 2011. At this point 15-20 points is about what you can expect from him.

Bottom line, it was a heck of play and it should be noted. Especially for all the negative criticism directed his way.

Keeping It In Perspective

The improved play over the last three games doesn’t let Girardi off the hook for a lot of bad hockey before it. It also doesn’t solve the Rangers glaring issues on the right side. However, if he can keep it up, the Rangers will be better off for it.

At this point, there is no top pairing defenseman coming by way of trade. If for some reason the Blues would be willing to take a package of Oscar Lindberg and Adam Clendening for Kevin Shattenkirk, who may walk for nothing in July, then I don’t see a deal. The Rangers MUST KEEP their top young forwards. No more trading away the future for a slim chance at today.

If the Rangers are going to be successful this season, we will need a lot more of the old Girardi we’ve seen the last three games. Anything less and the Rangers are in big trouble.

There is also no getting away from Girardi this season. He has a no move clause and a desire to play here. The Rangers can figure out what to do with him in the summer, meaning a buyout would be very much on the table.

For now…keep it up Dan. We need you.