First, let me just congratulate the Los Angeles Kings and their fans for becoming the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup champions. What a great run, capturing the 8 spot in the Western Conference in the closing games and basically rolling over everyone. The Kings went 3 up on every opponent, and simply dominated the competition.
Of course, if you talk about the Kings, you have to talk about Matt Moulson’s brother in-law. Jonathan Quick deserved the MVP for the finals for sure. The saves that guy made were incredible, and he, alone, frustrated the Devils so many times. The Devils surely played a great series and had a fantastic run as well, so hats off to them for getting to the finals and coming back to make it a six game series.
Now, back to Islander content and Matt Martin ….
For those of you who read this blog, it is no secret that I am a Matt Martin fan. He is, to me, “old school” as far as his style of play and his importance to the New York Islanders go. He plainly brings an ingredient to his game that this team often lacks. That is pure toughness and physical play.
Matt Martin led the NHL in hits with nearly 400. This stat might not seem like a big dal to the casual observer or the non-hockey purest. On a team that, in my opinion, lacked toughness and the ability to send messages on too many nights, Matt Martin often stepped up and delivered the big hit or got into the face of an opposing player who needed to be pushed back. Hockey is, no matter what you want to think, a physical sport that requires more than skating and scoring in the overall big picture, and Matt Martin and Travis Hamonic were the only guys on the Isles who brought this element just about every night.
Beyond that, though, what also was impressive about Martin’s season was the poise and intelligence he demonstrated. He just didn’t crunch guys or drop the gloves at any turn and hurt his team in the process. He showed how mature and team oriented he is by knowing when it was best to back down or skate away from a confrontation. He was rarely drawn into a “bad penalty”, and this, within itself, says a lot about a guy who understands his role on a team.
In 80 games, Matt Martin scored 7 goals and had 7 assists. His -17 rating was, perhaps, one of his weaker stats, and is something that can improve. Nevertheless, playing on the third or fourth line, Martin was the net front presence the Isles also needed and got from him. There are just so many intangibles to his game that made him so important to have in the lineup, and the improvements he has made have definitely been noticeable.
I would have to give Matt Martin a grade of B Plus. The only part of his game that I would like to see “improve” his his scoring. He might not be a potential 20 to 30 goal scorer, but I believe he can net 15 plus. He has a good shot, and his ability to go to the net to create all kinds of problems for a goaltenders are elements he has to use more effectively and consistently. It can be argued that playing time and more talented line mates would certainly improve his game, so I leave that up to the Islander fan to contemplate.
Overall, of course, guys like JT and Moulson and Streit and Parenteau will get a lot of the props as far as contributions go for the team. Without a doubt, such credit is deserved and even not given enough. However, to me, Matt Martin’s season was one that was important to the Islanders in so many ways. He surely should be a part of the “core” of this team for years to come, and I expect him to only become better and to continue to improve.
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