Penguins defenseman Paul Martin is a veteran NHL player that just began his ninth season in this league. And while he’s confident in his abilities and the way he can play, he knows that overall, last season just wasn’t his best.
“Sometimes, you feel like nothing goes your way,” Martin said during training camp. “At the same time, you’ve just got to work through it and get ready for next year, and that’s what I’ve been doing.
“I’ve always been confident in my abilities. I think last year when things weren’t going my way, I’ve always been hard on myself and expected a lot out of myself. Certain times (I) definitely got frustrated with the game and with myself. I think this year a different mindset will serve me well.”
Martin, 31, returned to Pittsburgh for training camp determined to have a better year for the team. And his new mindset certainly served Martin well through the Penguins’ opening weekend, as he got off to the strong start he wanted in wins over the Flyers and the Rangers while anchoring Pittsburgh’s shutdown defense pairing with Brooks Orpik.
Head coach Dan Bylsma was especially pleased with Martin’s play in Philadelphia, a 3-1 win over the club that eliminated Pittsburgh from the 2012 playoffs.
Martin, playing on the second power-play unit, opened the game’s scoring with a wrister from the point just 4:40 into the contest. He added an assist on Pittsburgh’s third goal and also performed solidly on the penalty kill with Orpik, seeing 4:19 shorthanded minutes.
“I think from a defensive standpoint, it was a good start for our team and Paul anchored that heavily with his play in Philadelphia,” Bylsma said. “That game in particular being a 2-1 game (late), (we had) to kill penalties in the third period and him and Brooks were really out there for the majority of that. The way he played in that game I thought was excellent and the way Paul Martin can play for our team. He was a big part of that win in Philadelphia.”
For most of his first two seasons with Pittsburgh, Martin was paired with defensive defenseman Zbynek Michalek (who was traded to Phoenix in the offseason). They were separated toward the end of last season, with Martin pairing up with Kris Letang. This year, the coaching staff slotted the mobile, puck-moving Martin next to the physical, reliable Orpik together and it’s turned out to be a solid decision.
“I really haven’t played with ‘Pauly’ much the last couple years, then they threw us together this week,” Orpik said. “I think we both communicate and read off each other well. For only practicing for a week together, I know I felt really comfortable playing with him.”
“It’s easy with ‘Brooksy,’” Martin said. “He’s a great player. You know what you’re going to get. He’s physical, he’s good positionally, he moves the puck really well. It just makes it easier to play with.”
Martin knows it’s still early and that there’s plenty of work left to do. But having an excellent weekend like he just did is certainly a good way to build his confidence.
“(It was) a good start,” he said. “Hopefully build off that and continue to move forward.”