Feb 29, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin (7) clears the puck during the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Penguins defeated the Stars 4-3 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Martin's improved play key to Penguins early success

If you are a regular to Twitter or sports talk radio in the city of Pittsburgh, there has been one thing noticeably missing as of late: the abundance of “Paul Martin sucks” posts and calls.

While Martin struggled mightily last season and it is no secret that Penguins general manager Ray Shero would have practically given his $5 million salary away for free if there would have been any takers, to his credit Martin has rebounded rather nicely through the course of 20 games at the start of this season.

February 22, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin (7) looks to move the puck up ice against the Florida Panthers during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Martin’s laser of a goal during Tuesday night’s loss to the Florida Panthers was something that Penguins fans have rarely seen from him during the course of his two-plus seasons in a Penguins jersey, nor have Penguins fans seen Martin play at the level that he has been playing at this season.

The former New Jersey Devil knew he had to improve a great deal in order to remain in a Penguins uniform for this season and beyond and so far Pens fans have to be extremely happy with the results.

Martin has been pretty solid playing with Brooks Orpik at the defensive end, but naturally what he has done at the offensive end has stood out.

The nine-year vet has four goals and 11 assists on the season, which includes at least a point in 12 consecutive games.

His point totals in his two seasons as a Penguin were only 24 and 27 and Martin has already scored more goals in this shortened season than he has in any full season as a Penguin. Project his numbers out to a full 82 game schedule and this season would turn into a rather nice one for Martin.

Martin is averaging 18.16 minutes of ice time per game, up close to a minute per night compared to a season ago. Along with that, there are other indications on how his game has improved.

Using some advanced stats courtesy of behindthenet.ca (all 5-on-5 numbers); you will see that Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma is having more confidence in Martin playing against the other team’s best competition.

Martin’s Relative Corsi number, which measures the quality of competition that he is on the ice against, comes in at 0.658, which is up from 0.583 a season ago.  That’s tops among Penguins defensemen.

Now let’s look at the relative on-ice team shooting percentage, which the name of the game is getting pucks to the net.

Martin this year comes in at 9.50, compared to only 8.75 a season ago.

Then there is the fact that less goals are being scored with Martin on the ice. This year the on-ice team save percentage with Martin on the ice .915, compared to only .897 last season.

There are quite a few other advanced metrics that would also suggest that Martin is a much better player than a season ago.

This isn’t to ever confuse Martin with a Norris Trophy candidate, but it is simply to suggest that Martin has become a big part of the Penguins early success.

He no longer is the whipping boy among Penguins fans, but instead has made himself a vital part of the Penguins blue line.

Hopefully his success can continue.

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