The Kings are simply better with Alec Martinez in the lineup. It took head coach Darryl Sutter a good while to realize this fact of life, but at least he did before it was too late.
Always ready to join the attack, the fleet-footed 26-year-old is a key cog in L.A.’s puck-possession game, posting a stellar 56.3 five-on-five Corsi percentage during the regular season. He also enjoyed an offensive breakout following the Olympic break, tallying 15 points and a plus-nine rating in 22 games.
That streak has continued in the playoffs, with Martinez currently sitting on two goals and five points in nine games.
With that said, where he’s proven himself the most thus far in the postseason is in his all-around game. He’s been dependable on the defensive end, which has earned him more ice time.
In the team’s 2012 Stanley Cup run, he saw 14:28 of action per night (three points, plus-five in 20 games). In last year’s postseason, he played 13:14 per contest (two points, minus-four in seven games).
Through nine playoff contests in 2014, he’s seen over 18 minutes per game without missing a beat, registering a plus-one rating and chipping in wherever he can—his pace helps the breakout and closes gaps in the neutral zone, while his physicality continues to surprise forwards.
Though his epic overtime block on Corey Perry in Game 1 against Anaheim grabbed most of the headlines, he’s used his stick to effectively disrupt opposing forwards and has been generally sound in coverage despite subpar pairmates such as Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell.
The higher stakes and tougher opponents haven't fazed him in the least, as he's elevated his game to that of a second-pairing blueliner.
Sutter has even rewarded Martinez with penalty-killing duty, icing him for 1:13 of short-handed time per game. He averaged 0:24 and 0:04 of short-handed time in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
L.A.'s bench boss used to scratch him on a semi-regular basis. Now he trusts him to kill off penalties.