Hockey is an intensely physical game. Players are getting hit all the time, whether it be by opposing players, pucks, or sticks. Sure, the players take a risk every time they hit the ice, but it’s a risk they take willingly. Some guys are more willing than others to lay their bodies on the line, either to help their team put the puck in the net or keep it out of their own. It takes a special kind of player to be willing to put his body on the line for his team on a regular basis. The New York Islanders may not get as much respect as some other clubs in the league, but they do have one of those guys who is willing to lay it all on the line every night. That one guy is Matt Martin.
The Islanders don’t have the reputation of being one of the NHL‘s more physical teams, but opponents know they have to keep their heads up when Martin is on the ice. The 24-year-old forward led the league in hits last season with 234. All of this coming just a year after setting an NHL record with 374. Despite banging bodies at every opportunity, Martin did not miss a game in either of the past two seasons. Martin will run over anybody, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. He reminds me a little bit of former Islanders forward Steve Webb. What I mean is both guys love to go out and play the physical game. Every time there is a loud crash, when the glass and boards really start to shake, it means that a huge hit was thrown. Martin has the same kid of impact that Webb had almost ten years ago with the Islanders. The only slight difference between the two players is that Martin has a bit better a scoring touch around the net than Webb did.
Martin loves to go out and play a physical brand of hockey; that’s what helps him become such an effective player. His physical play can open up more ice for his teammates to create offense. Martin loves to crash and bang, thus making life more miserable for the opposition. Martin makes his living playing this style of hockey, and it doesn’t really look to be changing any time soon. That’s just the way Martin plays the game, very hard nosed and very effective. It makes the opposition more aware of how’s out on the ice. Players have to learn to start keeping their heads up more when Martin takes his shift.
Ironically, one of his linemates this season could be Cal Clutterbuck, who preceded Martin as the league leader in hits from 2008-09 through 2010-11 while playing for the Minnesota Wild; they traded him to the Islanders in June. With those two guys playing together, the toughness level on Long Island just got way higher.