Penguins insider: Martin steady force for sporadic Penguins in playoffs
Defenseman Paul Martin's future with the Penguins once was in doubt.
Now they can't imagine life without him.
Martin, two years removed from a soul-searching summer that triggered clear improvement in his play, arguably has been the Penguins' best player against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“He is very, very important to everything that we do,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
Martin leads the Penguins — and the NHL — in postseason scoring with eight points. He leads the Penguins with a plus-5 rating and has played more minutes (27 minutes, 55 seconds per game) than any of his teammates. Only seven NHL players are playing more minutes per game this postseason.
Martin plays on the Penguins' top defensive pair with Brooks Orpik. The duo also represent the team's top penalty-killing pair.
Also, after some flip-flopping with Niskanen and defenseman Kris Letang, Martin has been placed on the Penguins' No. 1 power-play unit.
“I can't get him on the ice enough right now,” assistant coach Todd Reirden said.
The series has been a study in sporadic play and sudden momentum shifts. Martin's calm, efficient game has been welcomed by a Penguins team that hasn't always handled postseason adversity well.
“Paulie is playing at a very, very high level right now,” Reirden said.
Martin has been on the ice for eight of the Penguins' 14 goals against the Blue Jackets.
Had the Penguins emerged from Game 4 with a victory — goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's miscue in the final seconds led to Brandon Dubinsky's tying goal — Martin would have been one of the game's key figures. He received assists on the Penguins' first two goals and, while they feverishly were attempting to protect a 3-2 lead, made a number of plays to thwart Columbus rushes.
Martin and Orpik, in fact, enjoyed a strong shift in the game's final two minutes, prohibiting Columbus from entering the attacking zone. They were forced to make a change with less than a minute remaining and could only watch as Columbus tied the score.
Had a whistle stopped play during that sequence, the Penguins would have attempted to place Martin and Orpik back on the ice.
Since a rough opening game against the Blue Jackets — consider it a microcosm of his Penguins career — Martin has been nearly flawless.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.