Brent Burns is getting a ton of buzz this season and rightfully so – the burly and bearded defenseman is putting up a Norris-caliber campaign for the Sharks, a team that has bounced back from a rare non-playoff year nicely. But Burns will be the first to tell you he’s not doing it alone in San Jose – his new blueline partner has been a boon, too.
“Paul Martin…I can’t say enough about him,” Burns said. “How well he reads and reacts to plays – I’m an aggressive player, a little bit off-the-wall – and he knows the game so well.”
Martin himself is playing great for the Sharks, logging tough minutes and still pushing the puck forward in terms of possession stats. The chemistry with Burns is one reason the Sharks are a virtual lock to make the post-season and it’s not even the first time Martin has served as a somewhat silent partner on a successful tandem.
San Jose coach Pete DeBoer is another Eastern Conference transplant and he remembers Martin as a Penguin when the coach was behind the bench with New Jersey.
“The best hockey Kris Letang played was with Paul Martin,” he said. “He had the demeanor to complement an elite offensive defenseman.”
Martin sees a lot of similarities between Letang and Burns, particularly when it comes to their ability to make plays at high speeds and change the course of the game. Of course, Burns is also 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds – which only adds to the intimidating factor when he has the puck.
A free agent this past summer, Martin had a couple options when it came to his destination and though the Sharks missed the playoffs, he knew the team would bounce back.
“Being in Pittsburgh, we barely made the playoffs the year before, being in a tough division” he said. “Looking out West, you see how tough it is to get in with all the California teams. Missing the playoffs for those guys was not characteristic.”
The obvious mission now is for the Sharks to not only get in, but go far. This San Jose squad has been known for its stumbles in the past and a core of Burns, Logan Couture, captain Joe Pavelski and long-time vets Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau certainly aren’t going to be patient anymore. Getting to that Stanley Cup final won’t be easy. In fact, it’s going to be downright dangerous, since the Sharks will likely have to play both Anaheim and Los Angeles just to get out of the division. From there, it’s a good bet Chicago will be waiting for them in the conference final and the Blackhawks tend to be kinda good in the playoffs.
But with Martin and Burns as one pairing on a solid D-corps that also includes Team Canada World Cup designate Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks will come into the post-season with plenty of weapons themselves.
And though Martin may not have the bushy beard and wild tattoos that Burns is known for, he’s having lots of fun with his new blueline partner.
“I’ve just been along for the ride,” Martin said. “He’s definitely an outgoing personality, but underneath that he’s a team-oriented guy, joking around in the room and keeping everyone included.”
Every comedian needs a straight man and luckily for the Sharks, Martin and Burns rule bluelines better than punchlines.