Stanley Cup semifinals preview: 'Warrior' Alec Martinez spurring another potential title run

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
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Detroit — Rochester Hills native Alec Martinez has been part of Stanley Cup-winning teams.

Twice, actually. In 2012 and 2014, Martinez was a key part of the Los Angeles Kings' rosters, with Martinez scoring the Western Conference-winning and Stanley Cup-winning goals in 2014.

Now with Vegas, Martinez, sees a familiar characteristic with the Golden Knights.

Alec Martinez is in his first full season with the Vegas Golden Knights after spending 10-plus seasons in Los Angeles.

"Guys genuinely like each other, guys have a lot of fun hanging out," Martinez said at the start of these playoffs. "This year it was different, guys not being able to get away from the rink (on the road). But any team I've been a part of, to be successful there's a lot of chemistry in the room and guys genuinely like each other and hang out and have that camaraderie.

"We have that across the board, and it's awesome to be part of."

The Golden Knights have a deep, talented, star-studded team and Martinez, 33, may not be quickly mentioned by fans. But in his 11th season and recognized as one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL, Martinez is again a vital cog in a potential championship winning team.

Martinez leads everyone in the playoffs with 52 blocked shots (teammate Alex Pietrangelo is next with 36) after leading the regular season with 168 (Edmonton's Adam Larsson was second with 128).

“He’s a warrior,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said last month. “It’s not an accident a guy like that is a multiple Stanley Cup winner, so I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Here is a look at the NHL's third-round series, where teams are re-seeded in terms of points. These teams have stayed intra-division through the regular season and first two rounds of playoffs. They'll be facing each other for the first time this season.

(1) Vegas vs. (4) Montreal

► Records: Montreal 24-21-11 (59 points, fourth in North Division); Vegas 40-14-2 (82 points, second in West Division)

► Story lines: Vegas left wing Max Pacioretty (Michigan) faces the Montreal team he captained for so many years. The Montreal media will be all over that angle. … Both goalies, Montreal's Carey Price and Vegas' Marc-Andre Fleury, are performing at the top of their games. … Montreal has upset Toronto and Winnipeg, and has been spurred by crusty veterans like Eric Staal and Corey Perry who've come up big.

 Key player: Montreal defenseman Shea Weber. Without defenseman Jeff Petry (Orchard Lake St. Mary's/Michigan State), Weber will take even more responsibility shutting down Vegas' legion of scorers and it won't be easy. 

► Prediction: Vegas in 5

(2) Tampa Bay vs. (3) New York Islanders

 Records: Tampa Bay 36-17-3 (75 points, third in Central Division); N.Y. Islanders 32-17-7 (71 points, fourth in East Division)

 Story lines: Tampa defeated the Islanders in six games last year in the third round. … Islanders coach Barry Trotz is facing Tampa in the third round for the third time in four years, including 2018 when he was with Washington. … Tampa has reached this stage for the fifth time in seven years and seems to peaking in recent weeks. … The Islanders are closing out Nassau Coliseum, where playoff games this spring have been electric.

► Key player: Tampa right wing Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov leads all scorers with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in the playoffs after not playing during the regular season with a hip surgery.

► Prediction: Tampa in 7

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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