Following an important playoff loss we all process the grief in different ways. Last night, one too many Sharks fans said Paul Martin "had a bad night," for my liking. By that, I mean I saw at least five — I won't link to their tweets here, because that would be an objectively crappy thing to do, so just take my word for it.
If you, like me and (I hope) the majority of those who watched game one feel Martin actually played a fabulous game, you're free to go. You can use send this post on to your friends and co-workers who used recency bias with aplomb and enjoy the rest of your day off of fretting about the Sharks.
Wow there are a lot of you still here. Okay, so let's start with why the vast majority think what you do: The game-winning goal. I know you don't want to watch it but you leave me with no choice. So, go ahead. Play it. Do it.
Brent Burns' stick breaks and Kris Letang manages to backhand a pass right to Nick Bonino who takes his time before burying this great scoring chance. Bad luck + great execution = the game's defining moment, right? Not so fast! Paul Martin didn't have his stick on the ice fast enough!
This freeze frame is caught right before the puck gets by Martin. Go back and watch it yourself. Martin actually slaps his stick on the ice right as the puck passes by him, which I guess would get you in trouble with your pee wee hockey coach. In reality, even if Martin leaves his stick on the ice, the puck could get deflected right through Jones' five-hole or the puck could hop right over his stick to Bonino anyway!
So, whatever, let's operate under the belief that this play is egregiously bad and not just mediocre. Even if that's true, Martin played an absolutely outstanding game for the Sharks on Monday. He blocked shots, tied up sticks and delivered against some very tough competition. See for yourself, from the excellent as always hockeyviz.com.
A little primer on this chart if you're new around here:
The home team players are listed vertically along the y-axis, the away players horizontally on the x-axis. Every pair of players has an associated square. The size of the square indicates the amount of 5v5 time the given pair played against one another.
The colour of the box indicates the shot share during the shared icetime. Home shots are shown in blue and away shots are shown in red; the players are written in these colours also. The darkness of the colour in the box indicates the density of shots in the shared ice-time. Darker boxes had more shots in them, fainter boxes had fewer.
So Martin generally had the best of the possession numbers against a whole slew of Penguins players, including Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin. Martin also posted a +1 even-strength corsi differential despite only starting 35.6 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.
In short, while Martin made a mistake on a pivotal play in game one, the defender played a large role in making sure that play was pivotal in the first place. The Sharks clawed their way back into the contest after starting off abysmally slow and Martin helped keep San Jose in the game long enough to allow the forwards to do their thing.
If the Sharks come back to win this series, Martin will play a large role in it. If not, well, let's not overreact to one bad play. A single bad play does not have to define a game, let alone a series. Disappointment is understandable, but directing that anger in the wrong direction? Not so much.