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Leading the 'hits' category is nothing new for Matt Martin and his physical style

In Game 3 against Pittsburgh, he led both teams in hits with 10. In Game 4, he led both teams again, with 11. Martin ranked fifth in the regular season with 275 hits in 67 games.

Matt Martin #17 of the Islanders battles with

Matt Martin #17 of the Islanders battles with Jack Johnson #73 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on April 14, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Credit: Getty Images/Justin Berl

It stands to reason that Matt Martin will benefit more than most Islanders from their team-record, 10-day layoff before they start a second-round series on Friday.

Martin’s style always has been physical, and the first-round series against the Penguins was no exception.

In Game 3, he led both teams in hits with 10. In Game 4, he led both teams again, with 11.

That sort of thing is nothing new for Martin, a fan favorite who led the NHL in that category five years in a row before departing the Islanders for Toronto, where in 2016-17 he finished second.

Martin returned to the Islanders this season and ranked fifth in the regular season with 275 hits in 67 games – the second-fewest number of games among the top 19 in that category.

But “hits” are tricky to define, akin to “tackles” in the NFL, which are so subjective they are not an official statistic. NHL “hits” are, but one of the world’s foremost practitioners does not pay much attention to the numbers.

“No, I don’t,” Martin said after practice on Tuesday. “I just know if I play physical every night and do my job, at the end of the day the coaches watch the film and [know] if you do your job and are effective . . . Some games you go to throw a hit, a guy avoids it and you get the puck.

“I think most of the stats in the league are kind of subjective, after goals, assists, plus/minus. Blocked shots, you’ll block three in the game and you’ll have zero on the sheet. Some guys don’t consider a stick-blocked shot a blocked shot. With faceoffs, guys are always complaining that they had better faceoff numbers than they finished with.

“So I think it’s a little bit: ‘Whatever.’ . . . You’re a physical player so you have that reputation as being a physical player. All you want to continue to do is continue to bring that presence. As far as that stat sheet, it doesn’t really matter.”

Martin said he was not surprised to have 11 hits in Pittsburgh, an arena with a reputation for being generous with them. He said Las Vegas and Washington are others in that category.

“Some rinks you go into and feel like you had a ton and you’ll finish with three, or other times you finish with 10 or 11,” he said. “I guess it probably balances out down the road . . . It all depends on who’s doing it and how they judge you.”

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