The Pittsburgh Penguins had Paul Martin quarterbacking the top power play in practice, on Tuesday, with Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen working with the second unit as they continue to recover from their lower body injuries.

Could it be a sign of things to come for this Penguins team? The power play has been trending upward over the last four games, going 6-16. Surprisingly, the Penguins are third in the league in PP% at 28%, trailing only the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Penguins seem to be gaining confidence with the man advantage and Paul Martin seems to exude that smooth, silent, yet confident, attitude with the puck that Sergei Gonchar had here in the burgh and still has in Ottawa. Obviously, Martin lacks the type of shot Gonchar had, but the Penguins have moved their strategy away from the umbrella setup and more towards the overload since Gonchar's departure in 2010. This season, it looks like the Penguins have finally figured it out.

Martin's job is not to provide the big blast from the point, but rather to move the puck intelligently to his forwards, allowing them to create plays closer to the net. When Kris Letang was scratched before last Thursday's game against Washington, Martin was given time on the top power play. The result was a major success as the Penguins scored three power play goals on four opportunities. Even better, Martin was on the ice for all three goals.

While the Penguins have gone 2 for 9 in their last two games on the power play, they still seem to be having an easier time entering the offensive zone and getting set up. Is it possible that Paul Martin is the secret behind the power play? Does he fit in better than Kris Letang because he's less erratic and more confident?

For Martin's sake, here's hoping.

Everyone has pointed out the quick turnaround from Paul Martin this season. Even ESPN has an article up, talking about how he did not want to be traded in the offseason, despite having two bad years in Pittsburgh leading to his branding as public enemy number one. The soon-to-be 32 year old defenseman has been great this season, without a doubt. He leads the team in ice time, averaging 26 minutes per game, which also ranks 11th highest in the league. A player of that caliber is an asset to any competitive team.

But is Paul Martin worth $5 million dollars a year?

No. At least not on a team that is already loaded with non-physical, puck-moving defensemen. By comparison, Alexander Edler's contract extension will give him the same amount of cash, per year, as Martin. When healthy, Edler scores double digit goals per season and is a force on the power play. The only time Martin has scored double digit goals was playing for the Elk River Elks in Minnesota; high school.

Other players making around the same figure as Martin: Dustin Byfuglien, Keith Yandle, Niklas Kronwall, Dennis Wideman, and Matt Carle.

The Penguins still have two buyouts available which they will surely use to free themselves of replaceable cap casualties. Paul Martin has been an asset on this team, so far, but he will need to be a power play aficionado to stay on this team in the future. His impact needs to be felt on a grander scale, especially with the team pursuing more top six forwards, and contract talks looming at the end of this season with Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin.

Posted in Pittsburgh Penguins

Leave a Reply