Dan Girardi’s road to Rangers redemption begins in LA

Dan Girardi dumps Dustin Brown (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

It’s been 12 games since Dan Girardi last played for the Rangers. Tonight, he returns to the lineup and with long time defense partner, Ryan McDonagh. His ankle is all healed after doing what Girardi does best…block shots. The stage in L.A. is set. The place where a large contingent of Blueshirts’ fan say his career tailspin began.

The Rangers need Girardi, not the other way around

In his absence the Rangers have floundered going 5-5-2 and looking as inconsistent as they have all year. The last time the Rangers won at home was against Washington (2-1) on February 19th. Girardi and McDonagh played over 20 minutes and shut down Ovechkin and company at even strength. While Ovi scored on the PP it came with the Staal/Holden pairing on ice.

Girardi sports a swollen ankle and the Broadway hat after beating the Ducks (NYR)

For all the negative stats new age hockey fans throw into a spreadsheet, his presence has been sorely missed in the locker room and by proxy the ice. Girardi is part of the leadership group in the room. While he may be a bit slower now, he is still the gutsiest defenseman they have and helps set the tone on the blue line.

He is also unfairly accused of making Ryan McDonagh’s job harder when at times it is the other way around. For all that McDonagh does well, he tends to be soft in front and overaggressive on too many plays in all three zones. That aggressiveness leads to odd man rushes against in which his partners are left to defend.

This is something that Girardi is used to and reads better than any other defenseman on the roster. We’ve seen both Brendan Smith and Marc Staal fail to find chemistry with McDonagh so seeing Girardi right back with the captain is no surprise to me. Matter of fact, I welcome it.

Unjustly Accused

If the Rangers are going to have any chance to win the Cup this year, they will need Dan Girardi to become the shutdown defenseman he was in 2014. Sadly, fans point to the Finals loss to LA as the beginning of the end…which is unfair and wrong.

Most of the new age fancy stat spreadsheet fans and bloggers blame him for the series loss. Or they identify him as the main culprit…totally disregarding the lack of scoring, especially from $7.8M man Rick Nash (5 goals in 19 games – 0 in the Finals).

The Rangers gave up 15 goals in that series which lasted 5 games. To be fair they played 5 periods of OT so that would roughly work out to 7 games. In contrast, the Rangers could only muster 10 goals in that same span with 4 of them coming in game 2. But sure, blame Girardi.

Now let me take you to the goal that seems to have burned permanently in the minds of new age hockey fans as the beginning of the end to Girardi’s career. Watch it once below.

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Looks pretty bad doesn’t it? Now watch it again and pay attention to the puck hop over his stick as he tries to pass it up ice (due to bad ice). Watch it again and see him recover with an LA player bearing down on him. Pay attention to Benoit Pouliot who put him in a bad spot fly the zone without looking. Now watch it again and stare at Ryan McDonagh and ask yourself why is he almost at center ice when the puck jumps the stick? But hey, blame the guy whom they put in a bad spot and left to hang dry.

The Road to Redemption

Starting tonight the Rangers have 8 games left with only 3 at home (probably a good thing). The Rangers are all but locked into the 1st wild card spot and a best case scenario playoff run through an easier Atlantic Division.

Henrik Lundqvist is also healthy and will return tomorrow in Anaheim. The King being the best player in the playoffs is a given if this Rangers team has any chance of winning. However, Dan Girardi has been once again thrust into a key position for at least one more time with the Rangers. He and McDonagh need to be the Rangers best defensive pair this post-season.

This could be Dan Girardi’s last year in Broadway Blue. If that’s the case his road to redemption begins in the place where many believe he fell from grace. Tonight, the warrior will rise to the occasion. Tonight, Dan Girardi will claim his rightful spot in this Rangers lineup and hold it until the Rangers last game this season. Whenever that may be.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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