Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning’s Dan Girardi, the human shot-stoppper

TAMPA ó Heís 33, and there are days when he feels older. He plays in the fastest game going, and he isnít very fast. That doesnít stop Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi. Twelve seasons into his NHL career, he still puts his body on the line each game, and he has played more than 900 of them, counting playoffs.

Since 2007-08, his first full season in the league, no man in hockey has gotten in front of more shots and blocked them than Girardi.

No man. 798 regular-season games, 1,670 blocked shots.

There was a recent game in Detroit. The Lightning was on the penalty kill. The puck came to Detroitís Martin Frk, who has a blistering shot. Girardi jumped into the breach. The puck hit his right skate. He crumpled to the ice, then limped to the bench. He returned for his next shift.

"The foot was pretty big after that," Girardi said, smiling. "You just have to be willing to pay the price. You canít really think about it, because if you think, youíll go, ĎHere it comes. Itís going to hurt.í "

The 8-1-1 Lightning have stars everywhere. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy. Even rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who scored again in Tuesdayís win at Carolina.

Dan Girardi didnít score. He doesnít have a point this season. But he has helped the Lightningís back line early this season, nothing flashy ó a Girardi staple, defensemanís defense. Frankly, he has been better than some of us expected.

"I know I can still play," said Girardi, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Lightning in July. "But to show some people, that doesnít hurt to motivate you."

Consider that the New York Rangers bought out Girardiís contract after last season, or that analytics are Girardiís sworn enemy. One statistic, goals above replacement, ranked him as just about the worst defenseman in hockey. People are always taking shots at Dan Girardi, even off the ice.

"I guess Iím like the worst guy for all these analytics," he said. "I donít much care. Iím a team-first guy. Iím going to keep it really simple. Iím going to try to do all the little things right, make that first pass a good one, get in the lane and block that shot, finish my check, try to get the boys going."

Lightning wing Ryan Callahan, who also was Girardiís teammate in New York, said, "To win championships, you need guys who are willing to do things that donít show up in those metrics. And how they are in the room, what they do they mean to teammates, metrics canít measure that."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper noted Girardiís willingness to sacrifice his body.

"That takes a lot of guts," Cooper said. "Not a lot of guys do that. (Detroit) was the perfect example. Heís been (great) for us on the penalty kill. Heís everything our team needs and has been a great get for us."

Girardi has played in 122 playoff games. Last season he battled through broken ribs in the postseason, as well as a lingering foot wound that cost him a month of the regular season after Ö blocking a shot. During the 2015 playoffs, when Girardi and the Rangers were beaten by the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference final, Girardi played through a serious MCL sprain. Thatís what he does. But can Girardiís body withstand another long season? He says it will.

The Rangers come to Tampa next Thursday. Girardi said he isnít looking for payback. Still Ö

The Rangers come to Tampa next Thursday. Girardi said he isnít looking for payback. Still Ö

"Theyíre basically saying they donít want you anymore," Girardi said of the buyout. "Itís a business. I wasnít happy about it. Right away, youíre mad. But I had a great run in New York, a great time. Now you turn the page."

Girardi and New York went to the Stanley Cup final in 2014, losing to Los Angeles. The Lightning beat the Rangers to make the final in 2015, falling to Chicago.

"Iíve been close. This team has been close," Girardi said. "Maybe we can get there together."

Itís worth a shot. Or blocking one.

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029

 
Comments
Andrei Vasilevskiyís dreams are coming true

Andrei Vasilevskiyís dreams are coming true

GLENDALE, Ariz ó Nikita Kucherovís toughest challenge isnít facing Canadiens goalie Carey Price, or Columbusí Sergei Bobrovsky.It comes in practice against Andrei Vasilevskiy. "Iíve been saying, I thought he was going to be the top goalie in the leag...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Switch to wing helps Lightningís Tyler Johnson

Switch to wing helps Lightningís Tyler Johnson

ST. LOUIS ó Tyler Johnson hasnít played very much wing in his career, primarily sticking to his natural center position. But lately, Johnson has been stellar on the right side.Johnsonís assist in Tuesdayís win over the Blues extended his point streak...
Published: 12/13/17
Lightning opens road trip with shutout of Blues

Lightning opens road trip with shutout of Blues

ST. LOUIS ó This showdown was supposed to be about the best team in the East versus the best in the West. In reality, the Lightningís 3-0 win over the Blues on Tuesday night pretty much came down to this:Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of the best goalies ...
Published: 12/12/17

Joe Smithís takeaways from Lightning-Blues

Andrei Vasilevskiy might have made the save of the year. With the Lightning leading by one midway through the second, an Alex Steen dump-in took a wild carom off the boards. Vasilevskiiy somehow sprawled out for a right-toe save. Then, on his back, V...
Published: 12/12/17
Lightning face Blues in showdown between NHLís top two teams

Lightning face Blues in showdown between NHLís top two teams

The Lightning's west coast trip will start with a bang tonight in St. Louis.Tonight's game will pit the top two teams in the NHL, with Tampa Bay (21-6-2) atop the Eastern Conference, the Blues (21-8-2) the No. 1 team in the West.Fittingly, an NBCSN-a...
Published: 12/12/17
How Lightning coach Jon Cooper reinvented himself

How Lightning coach Jon Cooper reinvented himself

BRANDON ó The best team in town had just wrapped up practice. The Lightning had a plane to catch, to St. Louis, where Tuesday in St. Louis begins a four-city road trip that ends at expansion Las Vegas, exclusive engagement, one show a night, unless y...
Published: 12/11/17
All boxes checked on Lightning home stand sweep; now, back to the road

All boxes checked on Lightning home stand sweep; now, back to the road

TAMPA ó You donít often see a coach making shadow puppets on the wall with his hands at the start of his postgame news conference, but thatís where the Lightning is these days after sweeping a four-game home stand with Saturday nightís 4-3 overtime v...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated game story: Lightningís Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

Updated game story: Lightningís Brayden Point credits luck, opportunity for OT winner vs. Jets

TAMPA ó His coach says he plays every game as if he doesnít play his best, heís going to be sent down. That is not the case with Brayden Point, but who doesnít want that kind of effort from a second-year player who has more than established himself i...
Published: 12/09/17

Brayden Point scores in OT to give Lightning win over Jets

TAMPA ó The Jets saw Saturdayís game against the Lightning as a benchmark game, a way to measure themselves against the NHLís top team. The Lightning had circled the game, the last of a four-game home stand."Itís going to be a big test for us," Light...
Published: 12/09/17
Lightning journal: Power-play players make me look good, Jon Cooper says

Lightning journal: Power-play players make me look good, Jon Cooper says

TAMPA ó How about that Lightning power play."Coaching," coach Jon Cooper said before Saturdayís game with the Jets.He was kidding."You always look like a good coach when you can throw (Nikita) Kucherov and (Steven) Stamkos and (Victor) Hedman over th...
Published: 12/09/17