The Dallas Stars are starting to build up some momentum with their play in the tail end of 2016. One of the big reasons is due to the play of a certain 22-year-old from the Czech Republic.
When you walk up to Radek Faksa in his locker stall in hopes of asking a couple of questions, you are typically greeted with a warm smile and a friendly, “Sure, ask away.” He’s an open and personable player, two qualities that can be difficult to find in professional athletes nowadays.
But Faksa possesses both of them. He’s a simple kind of star and is quickly becoming a fan favorite in the Dallas Stars organization.
Article continues below ...
He’s also the last guy that you would expect to drop the gloves against a weathered veteran NHL goalie. But that’s exactly what he did on Tuesday night against Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
“Well, I tried to tip the puck and I hit his glove and that really pissed him off,” Faksa said on Thursday in regards to the bout. “It was just emotions. Hockey is fun,” he said with a chuckle.
It was clearly an enjoyable time for Faksa, who was seen laughing as he dropped his gloves and jockeyed for position with Smith in the scuffle. No punches were thrown, though, as the referees quickly broke up the fight.
But it just goes to show that the 22-year-old Czech is making the most of the early part of his NHL career, and having fun along the way. Not only that, but he has also cemented himself as one of the Stars’ most consistent players this year.
Faksa has contributed in just about every area of the Dallas Stars’ game this season, and his efforts have not gone unnoticed.
First and foremost, he continues to provide quality depth scoring on offense. He has yet to miss a game for Dallas this year.
In 45 games last season, Faksa scored five goals and tallied seven assists along with a +9 on-ice rating. He won 49.1 percent of face-offs, logged 58 hits, and blocked 33 shots. He did all of this in 12:21 average ice time.
This season, he’s got five goals and eight assists in 37 games with the Stars, as well as a +5 rating. He’s won 46.9 percent of his face-offs, leads the Stars’ forwards in hits with 58, and has blocked 39 shots. He ranks second among all Stars’ skaters with 21 takeaways. In the past seven games, he has scored three goals and tallied an assist.
“I really feel that his offensive numbers are better than they are showing right now,” head coach Lindy Ruff said. “When he’s finishing some of those opportunities, we’re a better team. He’s got some personality, he’s playing with some bite, and he knows he’s a big part of our team right now.”
Faksa has been one of the main pieces that Ruff has been able to move throughout the lineup. He’s a big and impactful center that can mesh well and bring a new element to any line combination that he is paired with.
“I’m just playing my game,” Faksa said about his recent surge. “I’m getting more chances and better ice time than last year. I could have even more points if I had better execution. Just playing hard and trying to get pucks to the net and trying to hang by the net. Just being patient.”
Faksa is also known for his stellar penalty killing. He has skated a majority of the year on the top group with Antoine Roussel, and the two have produced a very effective unit. Faksa has proven that he can win draws in the defensive zone on a regular basis, can block shots on the PK, plays strong along the boards, and that he and Roussel can keep the opposing power play out of the zone more often than not.
“I think it’s good communication,” Faksa said about he and Roussel’s chemistry on the penalty kill. “We just play a hard game, block some shots, and get the pucks 200 feet away from the net. Just the little things like blocking shots, winning the face offs, and helping each other with communication.”
In addition to his success on offense and the penalty kill, Faksa is also proving to be a quality asset on defense. One of the biggest things that Dallas has struggled with in years past is having their forwards involved in the defensive zone. Faksa is setting an example in the defensive zone for other forwards.
He’s constantly hounding the puck carrier, winning physical one-on-one battles, using his size on the forecheck, and interrupting the shooting lanes. He plays a stingy style that is similar to that of linemate Antoine Roussel, and it’s clearly working on the defensive side of the puck.
“You need guys who are going to win battles,” Ruff said following the win over LA. “His size is good and his speed is good. Everyone talks about his size, but I think his speed is real evident.”
Whether it’s offense, defense, penalty killing, or physicality, Faksa seems to be involved. Head coach Lindy Ruff summed up Faksa’s significance to the team in one quote after morning skate on Thursday.
“He’s been a real important piece [this season]. He’s mainly the guy that can steady the ship, whether it’s in one end or the other. When we need a big defensive shift, he’s on the ice. When we need a big kill, he’s the guy leading it off. And a lot of times when we need a big face-off win, he’s the guy I’m sending over the boards. He’s a big man that can play physical and can get in on the forecheck and create his own chances. He’s led a line that I think has been the most consistent line for us.”
The Dallas Stars are now 37 games deep into their 2016-17 season, and things are finally starting to look up. They have a five game points streak (4-0-1) and are 5-1-1 in their last seven. After defeating the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, they secured their first three-game win streak of the season. They now sit 16-14-7 with 39 points on the year.
The win also lifted Dallas back into a spot in the playoff picture as they hope to continue their ascension in the standings.
Radek Faksa has been one of the prime contributors in this turnaround for the Stars, and he is hoping to continue being a part of the solution.
“Every game is huge for us because we had a pretty bad start,” Faksa said. “Now we’re getting back and home advantage is helping us now. We have to turn the season around and I think the last few games we did good.”
If the Stars are truly on their way back to being considered contenders, Radek Faksa’s efforts will play a big part in getting them there. Not too shabby for a second year forward.