If All-State named its insurance plans, everyone would be ordering the Paul Martin Plan. Martin got off to a rough start this series, but his performance in the third period and overtime of Game 3 may have saved the game and, in fact, the series.
Kris Letang has been putrid (by Letang standards) in this series. With Orpik out, it looks like Letang is trying to do way too much. You don't have to go down on every Penguins player all the time. You can admit that Kris Letang hasn't played his best in this series.
Matt Niskanen was good (and has been good all season). That scrap with Okposo seems to have spanked him up a little bit.
Deryk Engelland has been Deryk Engelland.
Simon Despres looks like a guy in a highly visible and crucial role experiencing his first playoff series.
The armor that Mark Eaton has been wearing all season got dented in Game 3.
Douglas Murray has been on his own island. We'll be discussing Murray in a separate post.
But this post belongs to Paul Martin. Here are four potentially game-saving plays Martin made in Game 3:
Play 1. 15:14 left in the third.
This Penguins' power play was one of the worst things to happen in a while.
What in the world was Kris Letang doing here:
Go high blocker or something, bro. Don't stickhandle into the heart of the Isles' penalty killers.
It was up to Martin now. He immediately realizes it's Grabner racing to puck and plays it safe.
He drops back to defend the 2-on-1 and ends up blocking the shot/pass.
People will say, "Oh, Letang's speed helps him recover. See, look. He gets back to lift the stick of Cizikas." Too bad he got a piece of Cizikas' hand and it should've been a hooking call. Just a bizarre move by Letang that started this whole thing. Perfect play on the puck by Martin.
Play 2. 11:39 left in the third.
This was a monster play at the time. An Isles' goal here would've given them much more time to capitalize on the momentum they had had since the Okposo goal.
The seas parted after Murray and Dupes kind of ran into each other.
Martin has to make another big decision in a 2-on-1 situation. He sells out and takes away the pass.
Play 3. 12:09 left in overtime.
Right before the Crosby goal, Martin was man-on-man vs. Okposo, who probably has been the best Islander player so far in the series. Martin didn't let Okposo do anything. It may seem like a whatever play, but, again, Martin defended it to a T. This stick-on-puck allowed the Pens to gain possession, and Crosby drew the penalty not long after this.
Play 4. 11:20 left in overtime.
Crosby's pass was sweet. Kunitz's finish was better. But Paul Martin put the turkey on the table, as they say. His fake-shot-and-pass decision took about a half-second of human-brain processing time, but it set off a world of events. Both of the Islanders forwards go all-in on the shot block, and the passing lane to Crosby is left wide-open. 47, MacDonald, rightfully panics and takes away the passing lane through the crease. Kunitz nonchalantly goes to the area where MacDonald was standing not even two seconds ago and rifles home the game-winner.
While Kris Letang battles through some struggles, the defense is going to be Paul Martin's to lead. The Paul Martin we saw in the third period and in OT of Game 3 is the Paul Martin we've seen all season.
Expect a big-time performance from Martin in Game 4. Just watch him.
P.S. -- What a bad play by MacDonald. Not knocking him for going down to take away a pass, but why move your stick to cover the same area your body is covering? And his stick ends up behind the goal line, where it can do absolutely nothing. A smarter play would've been to transfer his stick to his left hand to take away what eventually was the passing lane to Kunitz. Easy to disect after watching it 30 times, but watch for the next time a good defenseman gets stuck in the position to see what he does with his stick.