Last year’s none-shall-pass defense combo constructed by Ray Shero that offseason should be back together for the first time since Nov. 26.
Zbynek Michalek made his second and hopefully last return from the injury list two days before Christmas and Paul Martin should be making his return to the ice tomorrow against the Rangers.
We’re not really sure what’s been wrong with Martin form an injury standpoint; Dan Bylsma’s kept that ******** lockdown. What we do know is that Martin has been sucking it up in the Penguins’ defensive zone this year. And time off can only help.
Martin is the Pens’ worst when it comes to plus/minus this year at a -8. That’s awful considering the Pens have a +21 goal differential. It’s even worse that Martin was brought to the Burgh to be the shutdown defenseman that made it almost impossible to watch Devils games while he was in Jersey.
Before this year, Martin was a career +64, that’s 37 points better than any other Pens defenseman. So what happened?
Martin’s hit the ripe old age of 30. He’s not the mid-20’2 kid that was averaging better than 23 minutes a game when he was in Jersey. And too much ice time has proved to be a killer for Martin over his career.
The only other time he’s finished with a minus was in the ’06-’07 season when he was logging 25:13 of work per game. Even though the Devils made the palyoffs that year, Martin finished with a -9.
Had it not been for Martin only playing 17 minutes in the game he got hurt agaisnt the Sens, he’d still be on pace to finish with the second highest ice-time average of his career. So is it a coincidence that he currently has the second worst plus/minus of his career?
Since his pathetic -9 year five seasons ago, Martin has been one of the most reliable defensemen in the game. And last year, what most yinzers would call an incredible first stint with the Pens, Martin was a +9 while averaging 23:22 of ice time.
Maybe the trick to turning this year’s campaign around is to lower Martins ice time from the 24:20 he’s at now; not only to keep him healthy (since that’s almost impossible for the Pens to do with nybody) but to allow him to make the most of his playing time.
Of the 32 games Martin’s played in so far, he’s played more than 26 minutes in 10 of them. Yea, the Pens won six of those games but Martin was a combined -3 in those games and picked up his only -3 performance of the year.
He was a -5 over the 22 games he played less than 26 minutes, which isn’t great but it’s still in improvement.
Martin has only been getting worse as the months have worn on. He finished October with a -4 in 13 games and then finished November with a -5 in 12 games. Not too mention that he had his ankles broken and got burnt so many times that he should’ve been in a hospital ward long before his run-in with Ottawa’s Chris Phillips three weeks ago.
Don’t forget too that last year, Martin looked so great because his and Michalek’s styles played so well off eachother’s. One would jump up while the other would stay home and they executed it almost flawlessly, and Z was great at rubbing people out to force turnovers while Martin’s stick work got the same result.
But the none-shall-pass duo has only played 14 games together this season because neither one has been healthy. When they were playing together the Pens were 9-2-3 and the Pens could use a run like that now that they’ve fallen to third in the division and only have a three-point cusion on a playoff spot.