Samuel Girard was a model of consistency for the Avalanche in 2018-19, playing in all 82 regular-season games while finishing second among Colorado defensemen with 27 points (four goals, 23 assists).
In his sophomore campaign, Girard extended his ironman streak to 150 games, the longest active stretch on the Avs. Colorado acquired the defenseman during his rookie year from the Nashville Predators in Nov. 2017 and he skated in all of the Avalanche's remaining 68 contests in 2017-18.
The 5-foot-10, 162-pound, blueliner contributed heavily on the ice, boasting the sixth-best average ice time on the team (19:53) and third-best even-strength ice time (17:44). In just the start of his second year playing in the NHL, he logged a career-high 26:36 of ice time on Nov. 30 against St. Louis.
Video: COL@NSH: Landeskog scores on give-and-go with Girard
"He's been a force all season for us," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said on Girard's consistency prior to Colorado's second-round series against the San Jose Sharks in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. "He's taken it step by step and grown as a player and as a person off the ice too. It's not easy to break into the League that young, but he's taken it in stride and he's figuring out how to be successful on the ice… He's gotten really good at picking his spots."
This year, Girard skated in his 100th NHL contest on Dec. 2 at Detroit--a testament to his reliability on the ice for the Avalanche.
"That's just the first step, but it was fun to reach the 100th game," Girard said after skating in the milestone outing. "I've learned a lot. When I came in, there was a lot to learn both on the ice and off the ice. I've become a better player and person as well--I've learned a lot but I'm still learning now. My goal is to be better every day and I'll just have to keep going."
Video: Samuel Girard on playing in 100 NHL contests
The Roberval, Quebec, native finished the season with only three minor penalties joining Chicago's Dominik Kahun as the only two NHL players to play all 82 games with six or fewer penalty minutes. His 19:53 of ice time was the second-highest average of any player who had six or fewer penalty minutes. Pittsburgh's Justin Schultz averaged 20:30 while committing only two minors to top the list.
Statistically, too, Girard impressed over the 2018-19 campaign. He finished with a plus-8 rating, tied for sixth on the team. More impressive is his team-best plus-11 rating in February. It was the best plus/minus by an Avalanche player in the month of February since 2002-03 when Peter Forsberg recorded a plus-13 rating and Alex Tanguay registered a plus-12. Girard also posted a career-best plus-4 rating in Colorado's 7-1 victory versus the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 20.
Girard skated on a defensive pairing with veteran Erik Johnson for much of the season and the start of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Girard missed a few games with an injury and when he returned, head coach Jared Bednar often paired him with rookie Cale Makar.
"It's really fun to play with [Girard], he's a fast guy and very dynamic," Makar said on his line mate. "When you have two guys who can move the puck fast, guys who like to go up the ice really quick, it's fun to play together. We want to create offense and stuff and try to keep it in the zone and create chances, but at the end of the day, we're just trying to be players out there and make some plays."
Both under the legal drinking age in the United States, Girard was the veteran of the duo at just 20-year-olds. Girard recorded two assists during the postseason this year, skating in nine of the Avs' 12 playoff games while logging an average of 18:42 of ice time per contest and being a trusted skater in all situations for Colorado's bench boss.
"We wouldn't be playing them together and playing them the number of minutes they're playing if they didn't deserve it and earn it," Bednar said before Game 3 against San Jose. "I don't worry about those guys very much defensively because they're both elite players and are playing at a high level right now. Defensively, they're highly committed, so that's a plus. They are able to move pucks in and out of our zone."
With the final year of his entry-level deal right around the corner and with a brand new seven-year contract signed that kicks in after the 2019-20 campaign, Girard will continue to be leaned on to be a trusted player on Colorado's blue line in the upcoming season.
Video: Girard on signing seven-year extension with Avalanche