The Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck line, or as Butch Goring likes to call them, the MC^2 line, is often considered the top fourth line in the NHL. The trio has been a vital part of the New York Islanders’ success in the playoffs with their Qualifying Round win over the Florida Panthers and their first-round victory over the Washington Capitals in 2020.
The three players are the only line never to be shuffled and are usually head coach Barry Trotz’s go-to line to start games for their physical play. They have built a connection on and off the ice, and present a challenge for the opposition every game.
In the two seasons Martin spent with the Toronto Maple Leafs, both Cizikas and Clutterbuck’s goal and point totals went down the following year in 2016-17. New York tried to replace Martin with Nikolay Kulemin, but the chemistry was not there. The only success they had without Martin was when they put Ross Johnston at the wing in his occasional playing time.
The line needs the physical presence that Martin brings both in the offensive and defensive zone. He used to spend more time laying the body and dropping the gloves but has reverted more to playing a defensive style of hockey and scoring occasional goals.
Martin has never been a top-four penalty killer though he always has done a successful job filling in as the fifth and sixth forward down a man. The Islanders were able to bring Martin back in exchange for AHL goaltender Eamon McAdam after Lou Lamoriello was named general manager in 2018, and Martin has had success in the playoffs scoring three goals.
Cizikas is not just one of the best fourth line centers in the NHL but is also one of the most underrated players in the league. He reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in the regular season last year and was on pace to come close to that mark again if not for his injuries and the shortened NHL season.
As his line plays against the opposition’s top forwards, Cizikas is responsible for going up against the star center. He was never better than in the playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019. He held Sidney Crosby to one point and is in a division where he faces Evgeny Kuznetsov, Claude Giroux, Mika Zibanejad, and Sebastian Aho regularly.
Cizikas also has formed a connection with Clutterbuck on the penalty kill. Despite playing for a team that has continually struggled with faceoffs, he has been over 50 percent four times in his career. Cizikas is the most reliable center down a man both on the kill and with the oppositions net empty.
With the new three-on-three format, Cizikas is a weapon in overtime and had a great assist on a Ryan Pulock overtime goal in 2019. He has also added nine shorthanded goals in his career, including seven in the past three years.
When Clutterbuck can stay healthy, he is one of the best agitators in the NHL. Injuries have limited him at times, but the veteran winger possesses one of the best shots on the team. When he is on his game, he does a terrific job of getting underneath the oppositions’ skin and drawing penalties.
In 2015-16, Clutterbuck scored 15 goals, which was the second-most in his career, and they tended to be big goals late in games. Along with Martin and Cizikas, they receive similar ice-time to other team’s second line. They routinely play 15 or more minutes, and Clutterbuck occasionally gets time on the power play.
Since the day he arrived with the Islanders after being acquired for Nino Niederreiter, Clutterbuck brings a dimension that the team has not had in a long time. He will block shots, create turnovers, and is one of the most respected players in the Islanders’ locker room.
The fourth line will once again be relied on heavily in the second round of the playoffs. They should expect to see plenty of ice time against all of the Philadelphia Flyers’ top players. Plus, they all have contributed offense throughout their careers, which is instrumental for a team that is always looking for secondary scoring behind players like Mat Barzal, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson.