Martinez on journey to being a winner

"You watch this L.A. young defense and Muzzin scores a goal the other night, why? Because he read the play so well and he was down deep. He knew exactly where to be," Garrett said. "Martinez is a good skater and makes good plays too. I think it's one of those things you get that confidence that you can be a puck-moving team. [Coach] Darryl Sutter has that reputation that they're an all-defensive team but they're big and they move the puck well."

It is the kind of team construct that separates the elite teams from the rest of the flotsam and jetsam in the NHL.

"I really think that's the difference between the elite teams [and the rest]. The elite teams in the league that's the difference is they have those defensemen; it's not just off the glass and out, it's puck control," Garrett said.

"You make that first pass tape to tape and you still have puck control. You look around, the other teams they might have one defenseman that can do it but they don't have a group. And I think that's the difference between the final four this year and every other year, you get that group of defensemen and that's what you have to [do] is nurture that skill where you can make a play and control the puck rather than glass and out."

But getting to that point, learning the craft and learning to accept the responsibilities of getting better, well, that's never easy for just one player, let alone a group, which makes what the Kings are doing so impressive.

"I think it's probably the biggest step we've had with all of our young defensemen is just being able to be honest with themselves," Stevens explained. "I think they know us well enough as a coaching staff that we're not going to be critical, we're just going to be honest and tell them when they're doing well and tell them when they need to be better and how they need to be better.

"I think all the guys you're talking about have really been honest with their own games and knowing when they play well and why and when they don't play well and why."

As for Martinez, Stevens said he specifically has learned not to be so hard on him.

"I think in the past, Marty's let maybe mistakes or bad plays hang with him a little too long," Stevens said. "I think he's learned to [deal] with that better. I don't think a bad play hangs with him, a bad shift doesn't turn into a bad period and a bad period doesn't turn into a bad game. I think he's made great strides in that area [and] I think he would tell you that too.

"It's usually just because he cares so much, but I think he's learned to let it go and go on to make a good play after a bad play. Quite honestly, especially at this time of year, you need to be able to do that."

Martinez played high school hockey in Michigan and then played three seasons of college hockey with Miami (Ohio). Along the way he was drafted 95th overall in 2007 by the Kings, honing his craft with the team's AHL affiliate in Manchester, New Hampshire, before graduating full-time to the Kings in 2010-11.

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