Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
MONTREAL - You won't hear much from Dan Girardi on being a win away from his first Stanley Cup Final.
Actually, you can stop that sentence after "You won't hear much from Dan Girardi." The Rangers' most senior player outside of Henrik Lundqvist doesn't talk much to the media these days, if he ever did.
But there's a reason the Rangers made sure to get an extension done with the 30-year-old Girardi and not with his best friend, former captain Ryan Callahan, as the March 5 trade deadline approached.
Girardi may not say much, but he is always there on the ice. He's up to 569 regular-season games and Game 5 will be his 83rd playoff game, just ahead of Brian Leetch and just behind Ron Greschner (84) and Don Maloney (85) among Rangers.
That stat made the quiet defenseman take notice.
"That was actually pretty cool to see, flipping through the game notes the other day," Girardi said. "I'm pretty proud of that."
This could very well have been a trying few months for Girardi. Given what Martin St. Louis and Dominic Moore have done, playing through a real loss, it seems pedestrian to point out that Girardi's close friend, his teammate going back to when they were teenagers with the 2002-03 Guelph Storm of the Ontario League, was dealt away at the deadline. But it certainly had an impact.
Removing Callahan hasn't removed Girardi from the locker room, but the Rangers' player hierarchy has changed noticeably.
Brad Richards holds court like a captain now whereas Callahan was his usual brief, polite self and everyone else followed suit. St. Louis is sure to speak often. Ryan McDonagh, often mentioned as Callahan's replacement as captain, is heard from plenty. Things have changed, loosened a bit, since the playoffs began.
You won't hear much at all from Girardi about that, especially now. Even a relatively innocent topic such as the chatter between the Rangers and Canadiens before Game 4 drew a polite but firm response. "We're trying to win a game. That's the opportunity in front of us," he said.
He was asked again, in a different way, if the talk meant anything in the room."I think that's the same question but just phrased differently," he said. "Nice try, though."
So it is that Girardi would rather be noticed for what he does on the ice. He arrived midway through the 2006-07 season after signing on as an undrafted free agent with the team that drafted his buddy, Callahan, in the fourth round in 2004, and Girardi has been a top-pair defenseman going on six seasons now.
Marc Staal may have been the more touted young player as Girardi's first top-pair partner, and McDonagh has quickly become the Rangers' do-it-all defenseman. But both of them had Girardi alongside, playing major minutes, steady as can be. He has never missed a postseason game and has missed exactly five regular-season games.
A win Tuesday night will mean quite a bit to everyone on this team.
Lundqvist, of course, is the star of the Rangers, and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final and possibly a Cup will validate his status as one of the best.
Despite his 23-plus minutes a game, his $33-million contract and his unflappable work ethic, no one will think that about Girardi. And you know what? It's doubtful you'll hear anything from him about it.
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