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Dallas Stars End-of-Season Grades: Top Defense Pair

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Esa Lindell and John Klingberg made up the Star’s top defensive pair again this year. How did they perform as a line?

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Esa Lindell and John Klingberg have been together now for years, and this year was no different, however maybe just a little. For the majority of the minutes, Klingberg and Lindell were a pair. However, with Lindell taking a more defensive role, the Stars coaching staff now has the ability to pair Klingberg with Miro for key offensive zone draws; especially after the opposing team ices the puck.

Lindell and Klingberg complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses really well. Lindell has the ability to control the blue line well where Klingberg has the strength to move the puck for exits and entries. This has been true in past seasons as well as this one. That synergy is important and has undoubtedly been a key reason why they play together so often.

Lindell and Klingberg’s strengths help balance the pair out as a very strong defensive pair.

Just looking at the pair’s numbers, it can look messy. This is more by design than actual performance. We saw the Stars play some of the most defensive, “let them shoot from the perimeter but protect the net” play in the league this year. However, even with this in mind, the top pair showed some pretty positive stats.

  • The top pair allowed 61.26 shot attempts every hour. This ranks them 94th out of 112 eligible defensive pairs. Again, more by design than performance. Regardless...
  • Despite being ranked 94th in shot attempts against as a pair, they rank 61st in expected goals against, which suggests that a lot of the shot attempts against them were low-danger attempts at the net.
  • Lindell and Klingberg (tip of the hat to the goalies this year for this one, as well) averaged 1.55 goals against per hour. This ranks them 12th out of 112 pairs.
  • The top pair had a +/- of 10 penalties drawn. This is the 10th best rate out of any defensive line in the league. For a team who starved for offensive chances, this was a real positive on getting the team on the power play and away from the penalty kill.

What this tells us—besides “the goalies did play great”—is that the top pair did a great job at keeping the shots to the outside and not allowing a lot of high-danger shots. The goalies did their job, but there is no denying the top pair did theirs as well, and was a large reason the Stars were one of the three stingiest teams in the entire league.

Klingberg’s offensive numbers were just about what you’d expect from him. His goal production was up 58% this year which was good. His assists were down this year, with his first assists production going down 53%. His 0.46 first assists per hour numbers were the worst of his career. Besides these two outliers, production wise he was about 15% within shots, shot attempts, scoring chances, etc. Considering the defensive nature of this team, I’d say Klingberg was right about on par for his past season’s output. He quarterbacked the power play pretty well and really showed how much this team needs him when he was injured at the beginning of the season. Lindell’s individual offensive numbers were also just about the same with no major outliers. Within 15% of last year’s numbers which correlate with the Star’s defensive style of play.

All in all, the Stars top pair never cracked and again was the staple for one of the leagues top defensive teams. Multiple quotes throughout the season had the goalies praising the defense for not giving up anything easy making their job much easier. As previously mentioned, Klingberg’s early injury was the first time we’ve really seen him out for an extended amount of time, and it derailed what was shaping up to be a legitimate Norris-caliber season. His 64 games-played total was the lowest of his career. That stint really showed fans, and the team, how useful and special he is; especially when it comes to the man advantage. Lindell again was a rock on the back end with the coaches not hesitant at all to use him in a fully defensive role to allow Klingberg and Miro take the wide majority of offensive opportunites. He played in all 82 games and has only missed two games in the past two seasons. Showing up is important.

Dallas Stars Top Defense Pair Grade: A-