Dan Girardi is playing 30 minutes a game, or close to it. Simply put, that cannot continue. We say it twice last night, and a few additional times last week, where Girardi would get a minor injury, miss a shift or two, and then come back. During those two shifts when he wasn’t out, many fans would hold their collective breaths, hoping and praying that Girardi wasn’t seriously hurt. Injuries happen, but exhaustion happens too, and having an ineffective Dan Girardi would cripple this club.
With Marc Staal out, Girardi has assumed control as the number one defenseman on this club, and he has done everything asked, and then some. The “and then some” there is in reference to him playing almost half the game on any given night. As well conditioned as he may be, fatigue becomes an issue at some point.
Right now, the Michael Connection (Sauer/Del Zotto) gets between 20-25 minutes per game, with Ryan McDonagh receiving about 27 minutes, and Girardi getting 30 minutes. Jeff Woywitka and Steve Eminger get eight minutes per game. I’m going to repeat that: Woywitka and Eminger get EIGHT minutes per game.
As we’ve grown used to coach John Tortorella’s usage of his workhorses, we have grown used to his alienating his bottom players. It’s a strategy that suited him well for his Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning team, so it’s tough to argue with it. That said, there is a fatigue factor for Girardi. Very few players in this league are capable of playing 30 minutes a game. That number becomes far less when you eliminate all goalies from that list. I can only think of two players that can pull that off actually.
At what point does Girardi hit a wall? At what point does some nagging pain become an issue because of his fatigue? This is the road the Rangers may be heading down, especially considering how many shots Girardi blocks. It’s why a boxer gets so tired: taking abuse like that wears you out. Girardi is not going to ever complain, in fact he’s quoted saying that he doesn’t even notice the minutes he’s playing. Girardi is the consummate “do what it takes” player, and he’s the type of guy that guys go to war with. He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t need to.
Of course, he can’t do much of that leading if he can’t move his legs because they feel like jelly. The third pairing of Woywitka-Eminger isn’t a pair that screams confidence, but giving them a few extra shifts couldn’t hurt. Two extra shifts for them at even strength gives them ten minutes per game, but more importantly puts Girardi under 30 minutes. It may not be ideal, considering Steve Eminger’s struggles, but it might be worth it in the long run. Girardi is now the most important Ranger suiting up nightly.