Samuel Girard made his case this past season of not only being one of the best defenseman on the Colorado Avalanche, but also in the entire NHL.
The Roberval, Quebec, native finished second among Avs defenders in scoring with 32 points, producing a career-high five goals and contributing 27 assists--his second-most in his four-season career--while playing in 48 of the 56 contests.
His 0.67 points per game were the highest of his career and ranked tied for 15th among all league rear guards. He was first on Colorado in shifts per game (28.5) and ranked third in average time on ice, logging a career-high 23:13 per contest that also included a personal-best 29:33 on March 10 versus the Arizona Coyotes.
Girard finished the regular season with a 60.4 shot attempt percentage during 5-on-5 play, a new career best and tied with teammate Devon Toews for the seventh-highest among league defensemen (two other Colorado defenders were in the top four).
A mainstay on the Avalanche's blueline since being acquired from the Nashville Predators in a three-team trade on Nov. 7, 2017 that also included the Ottawa Senators, Girard had played in every single regular-season game since joining the club until this season. On Jan. 26 versus the San Jose Sharks, Girard skated in his 226th consecutive contest to pass Karlis Skrastins for the second-longest ironman streak by a Colorado D-man. Only Martin Skoula (285) had a longer consecutive-games stretch.
His streak ultimately came to an end on Feb. 14 at 231 straight regular-season games played as he missed the Avs' contest that night at the Vegas Golden Knights while in the league's COVID-19 protocol.
Girard was only out for two contests before returning to game action on Feb. 20 at the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe event. In the first period, with the high-altitude sun reflecting off the ice and just feet from the blue water of North America's largest alpine lake, the defenseman opened the game's scoring for the Avs, who went on to win 3-2 for their first-ever outdoor game victory. It was Girard's second straight outdoor contest with a tally after he also found the back of the net at the 2020 NHL Stadium Series at the U.S. Air Force Academy 12 months earlier.
Video: VGK@COL: Girard rips wrist shot home to open scoring
On March 6 against the Anaheim Ducks, Girard had assists on both of Mikko Rantanen's goals to record his 100th and 101st career NHL point. He became the 10th player and third defenseman from the 2016 draft class to reach the century mark but only the fourth skater to reach the mark that wasn't selected in the first round that year.
In the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Girard contributed five assists in 10 games. He's now played in the postseason in each of his four seasons and has 16 career playoff helpers, which ranks fifth all-time in Avalanche history (since 1995-96).
The 2020-21 campaign saw Girard take advantage of an increase in ice time and continue to make a name for himself as a defenseman opposing teams need to be aware of on both ends of the ice.