Dallas Stars Are Not The Same Team Without Radek Faksa, Esa Lindell

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 20: Radek Faksa
BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 20: Radek Faksa /

The Dallas Stars were forced to play without center Radek Faksa and defenseman Esa Lindell on Monday and Tuesday night in losses to the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators. Their absences were noticeable, to say the least.

On Monday night, the Dallas Stars scratched and clawed their way to another overtime loser point in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Following a pattern stitched over the past few games, Tyler Seguin blasted a shot past Senators goaltender Craig Anderson to tie it at two with under two minutes left.

The visiting team scored the victory with an Erik Karlsson breakaway goal in the extra 3-on-3 session. Despite the valiant comeback effort of Dallas, their lack of depth and reliable secondary contribution was on display in their defeat.

Seguin had two goals, both Kari Lehtonen and Ben Bishop played decently, and star defenseman John Klingberg was being double and triple shifted at times. But, it wasn’t enough, because hockey is a game of misery. And misery was the feeling on Tuesday as well.

Despite a solid 32-save Lehtonen start, the Stars dropped their second straight to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Tennessee by a score of 2-0. Dallas was completely unable to generate offense, even with a six-game point streak from Seguin and the highest-scoring blueliner in the league, John Klingberg.

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Hockey is the top athletes in the world nearly killing themselves every time they pivot on the knives they use for mobility, so we should commend the Stars for every point in the standings they get. Still, the Western Conference postseason picture looks scarier and more stressful by the day.

What/who the Stars needed – and this feels odd to say, but it’s true – was Radek Faksa and Esa Lindell. The Stars’ checking-line center and top-pair defenseman missed both games in the back-to-back losses, and their absences from the Dallas lineup were obvious.

The interesting thing about their ailments and the void in the lineup is: It’s not even about them, it’s about the players they are deployed with.

The Stars had problems against each of Ottawa and Nashville with infiltrating neutral zone pressure and getting the puck deep enough in the offensive zone for the Stars’ highly-effective cycle play to create shots. Faksa and the checking line of Tyler Pitlick and Antoine Roussel does this best.

Pitlick and Roussel were separated in the lineup for much of the Predators game, and in the Senators game, were on the sides of center Jason Spezza. This stunned the ability for the checking line to contribute to any success, as Pitlick and Roussel saw their Corsi For percentages drop severely.

Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars /

Dallas Stars

Pitlick was good for just 40.0 CF% over the back-to-back, contrasting with his 50.5 season mark. Roussel was even worse, at 38.4%, a ginourmous fall from his 53.5% percentage for the 2017-18 season. Faksa was the engine that powered these two, and without the Czech centerman, they were extremely ineffective.

Then we have Lindell, and the impact he had on the construction of the Dallas Stars defense. Lindell had been the flawless, reliable auxiliary piece to Norris Trophy contender John Klingberg all campaign long, but sans the former AHL All-Star, the defensive six suffered through an accordion effect.

Oft-injured Marc Methot played alongside Klingberg, while the third pair saw Stephen Johns skate with Julius Honka (the second pair of Dan Hamhuis and Greg Pateryn stayed unchanged). Klingberg could not take the risks he does so often and beautifully with a less skilled defender in Methot, and the Johns-Honka pair did not play enough to make a discernable impact.

Lindell’s presence is vital to the success of two-way maestro Klingberg, and it helps create a defensive unit with chemistry and perfect deployment styles throughout the lineup. Without him, the Stars defense contributes little offensively (other than Kling, of course), and struggles to get the puck out of the zone and up the ice.

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As always, no team’s struggles – or successes – can be attributed to just two players. However, Radek Faksa and Esa Lindell are necessities to the lineup of the Dallas Stars, and the proof we needed was what unfolded on the ice on Monday and Tuesday.