It was exciting to watch seven members of the Penguins travel to Sochi to participate in the 2014 Olympic Games, but watching Paul Martin break his hand attempting to block a shot was the worst fear for many fans.
His return couldn’t come at a better time; the Penguins have struggled immensely on the power play since the Olympic break, and Martin is a huge piece of their first unit. A power play that once looked automatic has failed to produce in numerous key situations, and they have even given up multiple shorthanded goals in the last few weeks.
Martin’s return will also allow Matt Niskanen to shift his focus back on five-on-five play and continuing to build chemistry with Olli Maatta. The injuries to Martin and Kris Letang really took a toll on Niskanen, who was forced to play well over 20 minutes and in almost every situation.
With six games remaining in the regular season, the timing for Martin’s return couldn’t be better. The Penguins are just one win, or one Philadelphia Flyers loss, away from clinching the Metropolitan Division, meaning the last three or four games will more than likely be meaningless. This would allow Martin the chance to practice in every scenario and knock off the rust without any real consequences if he was to struggle.
Martin has been one of the main scapegoats for the Penguins’ recent early departures in the postseason, but before injuring his hand in Sochi he appeared to be playing some of the best hockey of his career. If Letang doesn’t return this season, it will be up to Martin to lead the defensive corps throughout the playoffs.