Yesterday we talked about a New York Rangers defenseman on the rise in Michael Del Zotto. So today it only seems fitting -- especially after Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils -- that we talk about one who is potentially faltering.
When Marc Staal didn't start the season with the Rangers due to a concussion, two defenseman stepped up to fill his shoes; Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. And while McDonagh might have gotten the most attention for how quickly and successfully he rose to the challenge of playing on the top defensive pairing game in and game out, it was Girardi who actually took over the No. 1 defenseman role.
That put a lot of pressure on Girardi, with the pressure coming hand in hand with more minutes of ice time. Despite not playing at or over 25 minutes a night the past five games, Girardi is still averaging 26:45 this season. That's a significant amount of ice time for any player, no matter how talented.
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Now it would appear that the load John Tortorella has been giving Girardi is starting to show. Girardi has been sluggish the past few games, and in the loss to the Devils it was Giraridi's ill-advised pass that was picked off for the Devils' third goal of the game (the goal which essentially put the game away).
That turnover resulted in Girardi getting benched for the remainder of the period, something that hasn't happened all season long. That sequence -- the giveaway leading to the goal and the subsequent benching -- was a very telling series of events for Girardi and Tortorella.
It's plain to see that Girardi's game simply isn't where it was in the beginning of the season or even a few weeks ago. Whether that's due to Girardi just going through a slump (possibly), getting worn down (probably), a combination of the two (almost certianly) or him simply losing touch with his game (I wouldn't bet on it) it's still costing the Rangers points.
Either way, it's time for Girardi to get his game going again. And if that means he takes a night or two off then so be it. Unless Tortorella believes this is a slump (and that's something only he and Girardi would know) then I see no reason why he can't sit a few games. Hell, I see no reason why he can't sit a few games even if it is a slump. Girardi has been used quite a bit in pretty much every game this year.
Now it's apparently starting to show. Or is it?