Dan Girardi

Blue Jackets – Lightning provide first goal, fight of playoffs

After a high-scoring 2018-19 regular season, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are off to a fast start.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning are setting the tone in Game 1. About three minutes into the contest, Dan Girardi was whistled for illegal hit to the head on his former Rangers teammate Brandon Dubinsky, which inspired something you probably didn’t expect this soon: the first fight of the postseason.

Check out the hit and fight here:

The Blue Jackets ended up getting a two-minute power play advantage from that ensuing fracas, but it really just started the bleeding for Columbus. Alex Killorn snagged the puck from Seth Jones, opening up a breakaway and a shorthanded goal, the first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch that video in the clip above this post’s headline.

Things didn’t get any better for the Blue Jackets from that 1-0 goal. Anthony Cirelli made it 2-0 on a goal Sergei Bobrovsky would want back, while Yanni Gourde‘s deflection on a 3-0 goal was something Bob really had no chance on.

So, two-out-of-three goals weren’t Bob’s bad, but he had some other shaky moments, and the conventional wisdom that the Blue Jackets will need brilliant goaltending to steal games from the Bolts continues to hold.

It begs the question: will the Blue Jackets also provide another first for this postseason: the first goalie change?

Game 2 of Blue Jackets-Lightning is Friday, April 12, at 7 p.m. ET on CNBC

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Girardi, Lightning push Bruins to brink of elimination

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have one foot in the Eastern Conference Final.

Dan Girardi scored 3:18 into overtime to give Tampa a 3-1 series lead after taking their second straight at TD Garden.

Girardi’s goal capped off a third-period comeback with his winner. Steven Stamkos scored his first goal at even strength in 21 games to erase the Bruins’ 3-2 lead.

There was some controversey on Stamkos’ goal as it appeared Nikita Kucherov tripped up Charlie McAvoy prior to the Stamkos one-timer that tied the game 3-3.

Brad Marchand, who wasn’t without his own controversy on the night after throwing a low hit on Ryan Callahan before licking him in a scuffled after, wasn’t none too pleased with the non-call.

The Bruins’ top line got their band back together in the game, but not before Tampa took a two-goal lead in the first 10 minutes of the first period.

The Bruins found themselves trailing early and spending time killing off penalties as Brayden Point and Kucherov put the visitors head. Kucherov’s goal was his first of the series.

Patrice Bergeron‘s line with David Pastrnak and Marchand took over from there, regaining the mojo that had worked so well for them in Game 1 — their only win of the series thus far.

Pastrnak pulled the Bruins one back in the first and Bergeron netted the next two as the Bruins took their first lead in the third period.

The series shifts back to Tampa for Game 5 on Sunday afternoon and the Lightning now has a chance to close the series out at home.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Former Ranger Dan Girardi ready for ‘weird’ game against old team

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Dan Girardi spent the first 11 years of his NHL career with the New York Rangers, but that all changed this summer when the team decided to buy out his contract.

For those of us on the outside, the decision was a lot less surprising. Stay-at-home defensemen with big contracts are becoming more and more rare, so the fact that the Rangers wanted to move on from the inflated contract wasn’t exactly shocking for the average hockey fan.

Still, being forced to leave the only team you’ve ever known couldn’t have been easy. Now, he’ll get the chance to suit up against his former team for the first time, on Thursday night.

Most players pretend like this is just another game, but not Girardi, who told NHL.com that Thursday’s game is “still going to be weird” even though it’s being played in Tampa, not New York.

The Lightning have more overall depth than the Rangers, so they’ve been able to use Girardi in a much more limited role than he had been playing with New York in the past. Between 2007-08 and 2015-16, the 33-year-old was averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. In his first season with the Bolts, he’s playing just 16:33 per game, which is probably just right for him at this stage of his career.

“Definitely, it’s kind of a different role,” Girardi said. “They want me to still come in and play my game, but I’m not leaned upon to be the top guy. I’m paired with (Braydon) Coburn and we’re still playing some hard minutes against top lines, [but] my job is to be really good defensively and if I can contribute on offense it’s great.”

Obviously, contributing offensively isn’t his forte (he has one assist in 13 games), but he’s been a decent fit with his new squad.

Girardi’s CF% is under 50 percent at 47.6. But considering he isn’t great with the puck on his stick and that he starts in the defensive zone 57.4 percent of the time, those are fair numbers for the veteran. During his final three years in New York, his CF% was 46.3, 41.3 and 44.

For those wondering when Girardi will get a chance to go back to New York for the first time, that’ll come on Mar. 30, 2018.

Report: Brassard should be ready for training camp after wrist surgery

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New York Rangers forward Derick Brassard underwent wrist surgery last week, leaving him with a four-to-six week window of recovery, according to sources including The Bergen Record.

That rehab estimate would indicate that the 27-year-old will be recovered by the time training camp kicks off sometime in September.

It’s unclear how long Brassard’s wrist was bothering him, but either way, he was quite productive last season.

During the regular season, he set new career-highs in goals (19), assists (41) and points (60). His postseason totals were also new high marks, as he managed 16 points in 19 contests.

As the Bergen Record notes, Brassard is one of quite a few Rangers who weren’t 100 percent during the final stretch.

It just gives a full picture of the Rangers’ medical issues during the postseason. Captain Ryan McDonagh was playing on a broken right foot, Dan Girardi underwent a bursa excision on his ankle and Marc Staal had a bone chip removed from his ankle. Plus, Keith Yandle continued playing after suffering a shoulder sprain in the first round.

The Rangers likely expect Brassard to match or exceed last season’s numbers, so it’s a positive that he probably won’t deal with lingering issues. That said, setbacks can happen; if so, it will be noted at PHT this summer.

There wasn’t always such an emphasis on shot-blocking

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CHICAGO — The day after it was reported that the NHL’s competition committee had discussed “disallowing certain shot-blocking techniques,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, a former NHL defenseman, was asked how the emphasis on shot-blocking has changed compared to when he was playing.

“I think the game has changed now,” said Quenneville. “There’s so many layers of guys in shooting lanes. There’s one, two and three guys sometimes you got to get the pucks through. I just think a lot of teams emphasize making sure shots don’t get through, and protecting the middle of the ice as well.”

It wasn’t always that way. The rise of shot-blocking has been linked to the NHL’s crackdown on obstruction that followed the 2004-05 lockout.

“You [keep] forwards from going to the net, and you’re called for interference,” Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara told Sports Illustrated in 2007. “And once the forwards get there, they’re basically screening your goalie. So now all that’s left for you is throwing yourself in front of shots.”

PHT reached out to former NHL forward Ray Ferraro to ask what it was like when he was in the league, from the mid-1980s until 2002.

“Shot-blocking was never really demanded from us. It wasn’t seen as a big deal,” Ferraro texted. “The focus was on keeping the lane clear for goalies to see the shot.”

More goals and fewer injuries are two reasons to try and think up ways to reduce the number of shots being blocked.

However, just because the topic was discussed by the competition committee doesn’t mean anything will be done about it, or should be done about it. After all, there’s something to be said for a player’s willingness to sacrifice his body for the good of the team.

“Some guys have more of an anticipation towards that, more willingness to do it,” said Quenneville. “There’s a bit of an art. There’s a little bit of pain that you gotta deal with as well. We may have one of the best ones in the game in [Niklas Hjalmarsson].”

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi leads all players in blocked shots during the playoffs, with 65.

On the teams in the Stanley Cup Final, Hjalmarsson leads the Blackhawks with 51, while Victor Hedman has the most on the Lightning, with 39.

Related: Ducks dealing with shot-blocking conundrum