NEW YORK — Dan Girardi can’t figure it out. He’s done work with numerous charities. He treats everyone he encounters with kindness and respect. He truly believes he’s a good person. But for some reason or another, it seems the New York Rangers defenceman has accumulated a great deal of bad karma—and for the past week its been exacting its vengeance on the ice.
“I honestly don’t know what I did,” Girardi said after his Rangers edged out a tense 2-1 victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. “I’m gonna go home and try to figure it out.”
First there was the slip in overtime of Game 1, when Girardi was backpedaling in the Rangers zone, ready to start an odd man rush in the other direction, when the puck took a hop off the ice and over his stick. He fell to his knees trying to retrieve it and made a vain clearing attempt that never even threatened to leave the zone. With the Rangers already heading up-ice in anticipation of the rush, Justin Williams was left all alone in the slot to win the game.
Then there was the Jeff Carter shot with less than a second left in the first period of Game 3, which ticked off the blade of his skate as he slid in an attempt to block it, and ricocheted into the back of the net. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist would have had it easily if it hadn’t hit Girardi. Naturally, it stood as the game-winning goal.
And Wednesday night there was the stick, his trusted composite which broke right at the top of the shaft as he tried to make a pass at the top of the Kings zone. The NHL unfortunately does not let you play with a broken stick, so Girardi could only watch as Kings captain Dustin Brown capitalized, collecting the puck and flying down towards Lundqvist—“Here we go again,” the Rangers goaltender thought to himself—deking six times before sliding the puck past the sprawling goaltender.
“I think everyone was just shaking their heads at that,” Girardi said. “It’s getting to be a little bit of a joke, all the stuff that’s happening to me.”
It was just another freak accident for the Rangers defenceman who can’t seem to escape bad fate in this Final. The wood knob of his stick broke clean in half with hardly any pressure applied to it, something that’s only happened to him once before in his life.
“It was a brand new knob, too,” Girardi said. “When [Brown scored] I was like, ‘are you serious?’”
Luck has been a constant topic of discussion in this Final, raised frequently by the Rangers when trying to describe how they could fall behind 3-0 in a series despite playing at least equal—if not better at times—hockey to their opponents. Most observers felt the Rangers deserved to have at least one win in the series going into Game 4—if not two.
Of course, fortune can work both ways, as was evident in Wednesday night’s game, a contest the Rangers truthfully had no business winning. New York mustered one whole shot in a frantic, incredibly tense third period that they played almost exclusively on their heels.
Two pucks off Los Angeles sticks beat Lundqvist but came to an agonizingly slow stop on the goal line—“thank god for soft ice now and then,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault—sitting there like a rock on the edge of a crumbling cliff before a Rangers defender was able to swat it away from danger.
Anton Stralman was one of the Rangers to save a red-line-straddling puck from crossing the goal line and mentioned luck twice when describing how he managed to do it. His coach was similarly thankful to have finally been the benefactors of good fortune.
“I’ve been in the game a long time—I know that sometimes the hockey gods are there,” Vigneault said with that subtle, wry smile. “They were tonight.”
Of course, the exception to that was Girardi, who hopes his current run of horrific karma comes to its end when they drop the puck for Game 5 Friday night in Los Angeles.
The 30-year-old Rangers veteran knows chance will always play a factor at this time of year. The teams are so good, so well prepared and, perhaps most importantly, so wary of making mistakes, that most goals will come by way of good/bad bounces. But what’s been happening to Girardi has seemed almost otherworldly.
“I’ve gotta figure this out,” Girardi said. “Because I’m kind of getting sick of what’s been happening to me right now.”