Each month at Blueshirt Bulletin, we’ll pick one player from the Rangers who stood out in recent games and award him with the prestigious title of Blueshirt Bulletin’s Bull of the Month. Whether he has been the lone bright spot on the team or one of many, this player will have impressed us with his persistence, consistency, and overall superb play. In short, the Bulletin Bull is the defined difference-maker on the New York Rangers over the course of that month.
January’s Bull is: Dan Girardi
Stats: 48 GP, 4 G, 13 A, +9 (+/-), 2 GWG, 27:30 Avg. TOI, 138 Hits, 121 Blocked Shots
League Rank (among defensemen): T 3rd GWG, 1st Avg. TOI, 4th Hits, 3rd Blocked Shots
Relative to the past two months of Ranger hockey, January felt a bit rocky. While the team entered the All-Star break with a perfectly respectable 8-3-0 record and earned a point in a shootout loss to the Devils last night, the three regulation losses all ended with the Rangers down by three goals and a frustrated Henrik Lundqvist in net. At times the offense has come up short, but a certain undrafted defenseman has been steadily impressive on the blue line since day one.
Dan Girardi is a Bull in the literal sense of the word. His league-leading 27 minutes of ice time a game are a testament to his A+ conditioning and his nearly flawless reliability. Despite his iron man-esque quantity of ice time and the fact that he’s been paired up against the top point-getters in the league, Girardi still boasts a plus/minus of plus-9. And there’s the little matter of his 121 blocked shots—good for 3rd in the entire NHL.
Statistically speaking, his superb play stood out most in the games against Nashville and Boston this month. In Boston, Girardi registered his 100th career assist on Marian Gaborik’s first goal of the evening, logged 33:31 minutes of ice time, and fearlessly blocked two bone-crunching Zdeno Chara slapshots. Against the Nashville Predators, Girardi scored the game-winning goal and was on the ice for the two other Rangers’ goals as well. He tallied a game-high six hits and was a key factor in Henrik Lundqvist’s fourth shutout.
It took a (rather fluky) game-winning goal for Girardi to earn the coveted Broadway Hat, but it provided an excuse for the team to recognize other aspects of Girardi’s game that have been present all season long: namely, bold shot-blocking, precise back-checking, and overall defensive awareness. Girardi’s presence in Ottawa this past weekend as one of the Rangers’ four All-Stars was somewhat superfluous, since he is not at all known for his offensive flair. However, Rangers fans and coaches alike have long recognized what an irreplaceable player Dan Girardi is, and the NHL smartly selected Girardi alongside “pedigree” names like Evgeni Malkin, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and Pavel Datsyuk—even as he stood out as a sort of “anti-All-Star.” Girardi stepped up to become the Rangers’ number one shutdown defenseman in the absence of Marc Staal, and even with Staal finally back in the line-up, Girardi continues to shine from the blueline and set an example for the younger defensemen on the team.
Girardi has been a stalwart, stay-at-home defenseman all season long, and the NHL made the right decision to honor Girardi with all All-Star nod at this year’s festivities. True to form, Girardi was even credited with one blocked shot (in addition to an assist on home team captain Daniel Alfredsson’s first goal) in the All-Star Game on Sunday. Fellow All-Star selection Kimmo Timmonen of the Philadelphia Flyers summed up Girardi’s game nicely: “If you're a big part of your team and you play well, you're an All-Star."
“He is a core foundation guy for us, and I’ll put him with anybody as far as one of the top defensemen in our league.” – John Tortorella
“The things he does for us are so important and he plays so many minutes, he’s physical and strong on the puck all the time, blocking shots, but also he’s good offensively…He’s pretty complete as a player. He’s got all the tools for being a great defenseman.” – Henrik Lundqvist
January has been a big month for rookie call-up Carl Hagelin as well. He has added an undeniable spark to the Rangers’ lineup and has been moved up to a line with Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan. Hagelin posted 7 points in his last 12 games, including two assists in last night’s game in New Jersey. Like Girardi, Hagelin earned an All-Star nomination and, in the Skills Competition, he officially extended his reputation as resident speedster to include the entire NHL.