Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 10/12/11
Gettyimage.ashx_url_http_3a_2f_2fcache.gettyimages.com_2fxc_2f91378953.jpg_3fv_3d1_26c_3dewsasset_26k_3d2_26d_3d77bfba49ef878921cc759df4ebac47d0f83835ee1016eef05739871304b399bfc2d087fcd615ba84

In the absence of Marc Staal, the New York Rangers have counted on defenseman Dan Girardi to step up and take the reigns on defense - through two games he has done just that. Along with Ryan McDonagh, he's risen to the challenge of playing a hefty number of minutes per game and hasn't complained about it once. The Rangers may have lost both of their games to this point, but despite that, Girardi has still been a star on the Blueshirt blue-line. 

Over the course of last season, more so than ever, Girardi established himself on this team. Remember, when head coach John Tortorella was firsthired in 2009, Girardi was nowhere near the top of his defensive depth chart by any means. That's obviously changed since then and Girardi's steady play in his own zone and slowly-developing contributions offensively have helped with that as well.

When paired with Staalsy, Girardi is his absolute best. I said many times last year that they were possibly the greatest shutdown pairing in the National Hockey League. So without Staal, it's like half of Girardi is missing.  But what we've seen in the last two games is that Girardi has the ability to be a standout on his own, and lead the team defensively on his own. 

As of Sunday, Girardi led the entire league in shifts per game. And even though he has been on the ice for more shifts than anyone on the club, he still has maintained an even plus/minus rating. Now some people do not put a lot of stock in the plus/minus statistic, but I think in this case, with a defenseman anyway, it makes sense to. 

Seriously, though, what can you say bad about the guy through two games? He blocks shots, he hits (something he's gotten quite good at), he's always extra protective of Henrik Lundqvist, and he is having a tremendous impact on the younger players. I remember last year when Ryan McDongh said he learned so much from watching Staal and Girardi in action. Imagine how much he is learning now as Girardi's partner? 

Once Staal returns -- whenever that is -- Girardi's minutes will no doubt calm down, especially since we will be deeper into the season and the coaching staff will gain trust in other players...

"It's not ideal," Tortorella told the Daily News about Girardi playing so many minutes. "He's ready to do it. He can do it. ... But I think those minutes will calm down as we get into the swing of the season."

The thing is, the only other players that Tortorella can trust on D besides Girardi and McDonagh are Michael Sauer and to an extent, Steve Eminger. Del Zotto's been way too inconsistent, Tim Erixon is only a rookie still learning the game at the NHL level and Jeff Woywitka has yet to play a game in the Ranger sweater. 

That is essentially why Girardi has received so many minutes out on the ice, and Torts has been criticized for putting Dan in that position, but he really has no other choice. It may be early in the season, but these games count and Tortorella wants to win. For reasons I spoke of throughout this article, Girardi gives them the Blueshirts their best shot. 

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

SEC commissioner wrote classy note to injured Arkansas RB

John Daly taken to hospital after collapsing on course

Rex Ryan keeping Bills' starting quarterback a secret

Braves fan dies after falling from upper deck

Randall Cobb suffers shoulder injury vs. Eagles

WATCH: John Harbaugh, Jay Gruden get into shouting match

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

WATCH: Brian Hartline drags toes on great TD catch

Julio Jones, Falcons agree on 5-year contract extension

WATCH: Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion blasts three homers, extends hit streak

WATCH: Usain Bolt does LeBron stomp dance after relay win

WATCH: Vick's first pass as a Steeler is a 63-yard bomb

WATCH: Montana's Ben Roberts makes amazing TD catch

Will Jimmer Fredette find success with Spurs?

Every NBA division's most interesting rookie for 2015-16

American Pharoah upset at Travers Stakes

Steve Smith joins family in stands after getting ejected from game

WATCH: Cordarrelle Patterson rips off 107-yard return TD

Steve Sarkisian giving up most of USC's playcalling duties

Animal shelter cancels fundraiser at Heinz Field

Mets acquire RP Addison Reed from Diamondbacks

WATCH: James Rodriguez scores unreal goals

Vin Scully: I believe next year will be my last

Charles Barkley wants to blow his former agent’s brains out

The Texas Rangers are firing on all cylinders

WATCH: Rutgers ends training camp with dance off

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Every NBA division's most interesting rookie for 2015-16

Fantasy football round-by-round draft strategy

Ronda Rousey's Carl’s Jr. ad

The WWE Divas Revolution is getting ugly

The NFL’s season kickoff isn’t going as planned, but plans don’t matter in the NFL

The Opening Drive: What happened to all the great Michigan tailbacks?

The 1980s Lakers represent the NBA’s ultimate creation story

The Orioles’ frustrating season

Five greatest NBA players of all-time

Finding signs of life for the Red Sox

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker