The Identity Line has been broken up this season, not by choice, but out of necessity. At different parts of the season, first Casey Cizikas and now Matt Martin has been thrown into a top-line role, and you know what? Both have shown their value goes beyond what their fourth line has been celebrated for delivering on a nightly basis throughout the years.
Following the injury to Mathew Barzal and a brief opportunity for Simon Holmstrom to log minutes with Bo Horvat and Anders Lee, the 33-year-old Martin first earned a chance to skate with the top line but now has earned an opportunity to stick for a while. The grinding forward was already enjoying a resurgent offensive season, but this recent stretch has been the best of his career. Martin is currently on a career-best four-game point streak after picking up an assist on Adam Pelech's third-period goal in Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
It wasn't just that assist, Martin had the best offensive night of any Islanders forward. In game where the team mustered only 18 shots on goal, Martin had 5 of them. Per Natural Stat Trick, he had an Individual Expected Goals Created (ixG) of 0.69 last night. The next best was Brock Nelson at 0.27.
Martin now has 19 points on the season (7 Goals, 12 assists), which ties his career-high from the 2015-16 season when he scored ten goals and nine assists.
“I thought he was very good,” head coach Lane Lambert said after this week's 3-2 win in Pittsburgh. “Marty’s a guy, a very smart player. You can trust him in all different situations. More often than not, he makes the intelligent and good play, so he played his way up there. And I thought he did a great job.
After missing the first two games last season as he recovered from ankle surgery, he struggled to find his form last season along with the rest of the team and had the worst statistical season of his career (three goals, four assists in 71 games). Fully healthy and with one season remaining on the four-year $6M contract he signed in January 2021, Martin is showing that he still has more to give and perhaps more than anyone could've expected.