Today is the championship game in the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout tournament. Naturally, it is the two longest tenured Rangers who meet up in the Finals: Henrik Lundqvist, the tournament favorite, and Dan Girardi, the longest tenured defenseman on the club. We want to thank Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) for pitching this idea to us. It was a great success and we hope you had as much fun voting as we did posting and seeing the results.
Henrik Lundqvist (Acquired – 2000 draft, round 7)
Hank is Hank. He’s a five-time Vezina Finalist, he’s won the award once. He’s been the backbone of the team, and the best goalie in the world. Not really much else to say here.
Dan Girardi (acquired – 2006 undrafted free agent)
Girardi is this team’s version of a Cinderella story. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of the OHL’s Guelph Storm (and Ryan Callahan’s teammate), Girardi was never a noted scorer, which is why he was never noticed. But the Rangers noticed him (presumably) while scouting Cally, and signed him to an AHL deal in the summer of 2005. They didn’t sign him to an NHL contract until 2006 after impressing in the ECHL and AHL. After his deal, he played another 45 games in the AHL before sticking with the big club permanently.
Over the next six seasons, Girardi missed a total of just four (!!) games. When you take into account the minutes (sometimes up to 30) he plays and the number of shots he blocks, that’s an impressive feat. Girardi isn’t a noted scorer (31-123-154 in his career), but he’s one of the best shutdown defensemen in the game today. Girardi has been the steady rock on defense, and players such as Fedor Tyutin, Marc Staal, and Ryan McDonagh have flourished while playing with him. Girardi was given the ‘A’ when Staal went down with his injuries, and it’s no mystery as to why.
Girardi took out #4 Derek Stepan in the Final Four to earn his shot at Hank.
So who do you think has been the better Ranger: Hank or Girardi? Vote thumbs up for the higher seed (Hank), or thumbs down for the lower seed (Girardi). Voting ends at midnight tonight.