[Ed. note: As part of the build-up to the first round playoff series between the Capitals and the Rangers, Japers' Rink will be looking at some of the important but lesser-known players on the Rangers and how they might impact the series.]
#5 / Defenseman / New York Rangers
Apr 29, 1984
Birthplace: Welland, Ontario
Drafted: Signed as free agent, July 2006
|Strengths||Owns good size, shot-blocking ability and defensive awareness. Is also a decent puck-moving blueliner who gets out of danger in his own zone with aplomb. Can log impressive minute totals. A durable player, he plays through injuries.|
|Weaknesses||Lacks consistency on offense and in the hitting department, which prevents him from raising his game to an elite level. Could stand to use his 6-2, 215-pound frame more in order to be even more effective in shutting opposing forwards down.|
|Potential||Big-minute shutdown defenseman. (Assets, Flaws and Career Potential via SB Nation player page)|
Why you should know who he is - Because he's the guy that is going to be in Alex Ovechkin's face on every shift and the guy who will be trying to stop the Caps' mighty power play while inflicting some extra-man damage of his own. Girardi's one of Tortorella's go-to guys on the blueline, and for good reason - he logs huge minutes (among the team leaders in even-strength, power play and shorthanded time), is a shot-blocking fiend, and can and has played through injury. Plus he just got his first career playoff goal in Game 7 against the Senators, so... dude's red hot.
How the Caps can stop him - If the Rangers are going to give him big minutes (and they are), the Caps need to wear him out. Put the puck in his corner and punish him, hit him whenever there's a chance, and make him feel every one of those twenty-seven, twenty-eight minutes a night. It's a strategy the Caps attempted with Zdeno Chara and it's one they enlisted last year - and had success in both. Girardi's reach isn't as long as Chara's (because really whose is), and he's not as inclined to take the body, so Ovechkin - or whichever forwards end up facing Girardi - will have a bit more room to work, and needs to inflict his own physical damage.