Martinez excels in his Team USA role
by John Sanful|19 MAY 2018
Alec Martinez contains the Czech Republic's David Pastrnak.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
On a team loaded with offensive stars, Alec Martinez has been one of Team USA's unsung heroes on defence. He's been solid, especially in the quarter-final game against the Czech Republic. Martinez blocked a few shots, including down the stretch when his team needed it most to seal a 3-2 victory that advanced the United States to the semi-finals. He played 8:49 in the third period as the Americans regained the lead and then held on to win.
Martinez is one of the NHL's most proficient shot blockers, leading the league with 206 blocks. It’s a skill that doesn’t get the same recognition as goals and assists but it is starting to. In the age of advanced stats, blocked shots illustrate how a player’s unique ability can be an important asset to a team. And with his growing reliability on defence, Martinez earned more ice time, averaging 23 minutes a game with the Kings. â€‹While shot blocking is his forte, he has some offensive upside, scoring 9 goals and 25 points in 77 games. 
“I hope I’ve done more than that to keep me playing hockey,” said Martinez with a smile. “It is an important part of my game but so is being a good defender and making sure I support my team defensively.”
The Michigan native has been a steady presence on the American blueline. He provides the necessary depth and experience the team needs. Martinez has enjoyed a solid tournament. Playing all eight of Team USA’s games leading up to the semi-final, he is averaging 20 minutes of ice time adding a goal and two assists.
Martinez has put together an impressive NHL career that includes two Stanley Cups in three years with the Los Angeles Kings. Martinez had the good fortune to score the Stanley Cup winning goal in 2014 against the New York Rangers. His goal at 5:17 of double overtime gave the Kings a 3-2 win over the Rangers.
“That was a special moment for me,” Martinez said. “Every kid dreams of scoring a goal like that to win the Stanley Cup. It makes winning that much sweeter. It is a memory that I won’t ever forget.”
Martinez is making his international debut for Team USA at the World Championship. This is his first IIHF tournament but has previously represented Team USA on select teams.
“It is an honour to be able to play for your country with this group of guys at this tournament,” Martinez said of being selected. “I’m here to contribute in any way I can to help this team.”
The Americans have earned a spot in the semi-finals and Sweden will be a difficult opponent. With the considerable talent they have upfront, the American defenders will have a big assignment ahead on Saturday in containing Tre Kronor’s skilled forwards. Whether blocking shots or as a stabilizing influence on the blue line, Martinez will be among those called upon lead this team in what will be their most difficult challenge to date at the IIHF World Championship.