by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River’s Paul Martin is back on the ice with the Pittsburgh Penguins and has helped them take a 2-1 lead over Ottawa in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The 32-year-old defenseman, who missed 14 games with a broken hand, has come back strong with a one-point-per-game pace: two goals and seven assists in nine playoff games.
That’s a continuation of an excellent offensive season for one of the NHL’s best defenders. Martin had 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 34 regular-season games and a plus-14 rating before his injury March 28 when struck by a puck.
In a recent article by Shawn P. Roarke on NHL.com, Martin’s strong 2012-13 season is attributed in part to coach Dan Byslma deciding to return Martin to the role of shut-down defenseman.
“I think also his being paired up with Brooks Orpik and being a shut-down pair for us immediately was a big role for our team and a big factor for our team,” Bylsma told NHL.com.
Martin’s first season with the Penguins, as a high-priced free agent, last winter, was a disappointing one for the player, as his performance was not at the level the fans expected for much of the season, and for the team, which lost superstar Sidney Crosby to concussions for much of the year, and had a first-round playoff exit.
Martin, who played six seasons with New Jersey, told NHL.com in the May 17 article:
“Coming here after Jersey, I think everyone wanted me to be a different player and put up 50 or 60 points, and I’m not that type of player. Here, when you get on the power play and spend time with those guys, you are going to get points. I think I just got back to my work ethic in the defensive end and taking care of that, and the offensive came out of that instead of trying to be someone I’m not.”
This year, the Penguins had the NHL’s second-best regular season record (36-12), then ousted the New York Islanders in six games in their first playoff series. They beat Ottawa 4-1 and 4-3 before falling 2-1 in two overtimes in game three. Game four will be in Ottawa on Wednesday.
In his NHL career, Martin has played for several teams that had excellent regular seasons but were ousted early in the playoffs — the second round twice, and the first round the last four years. This year his team looks poised for a run deep into the playoffs.