No one is surprised that two months into the season, the leading scorer in the NHL is named “Alex”, but the huge shocker is that his last name isn’t “Ovechkin.” The Great 8 is usually a perennial leader in goals scored, and is consistently in the conversation when discussing “Best Player in the NHL” status. The fact that Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues leads the league in goals comes out of left field for even regular hockey fans. So, what is Steen doing different this season, and how big of an impact is it having on the Blues?
Currently on a 10 game point streak after notching his 7th assist against Pittsburgh, Steen is on pace to have a record season. Only 10 goals away from his best season total (24), Alex still has a LOT of time left to pad his stats. Much ado has been made over Blues rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, but the real story in St. Louis this year (other than the Cardinals…) has been the unreal performance of Alex Steen. An underrated power forward, Steen has rarely been in the national spotlight. A grinder who can muck in the corners but still use those soft hands to pot goals, his performance shouldn’t be as surprising as it is.
Traded from Toronto in 2008, Steen may be another product of Leafs management giving up on potential scorers. His progress was slow, and he was held back by a truly awful team with management that worked like mouse poison against the entire organization, slowly draining their energy. But once Steen arrived in St. Louis he immediately went to work, scoring a career-high 24 goals. His productivity dwindled in the following seasons, but he’s picked up this year and the Blues are reaping the benefits.
The Swedish forward is helping St. Louis as they battle in the toughest division in the NHL. The Central is up for grabs this year, with Chicago, Minnesota and the upstart Colorado Avalanche locked in an intense battle for the lead, as well as fighting the stacked lineup of the Pacific as well. The West will be tight come playoff time, and St. Louis will be in the mix. Last season’s playoff matchup against the LA Kings was one of the most physical matchups in decades. Steen fits the mold of a tough St. Louis team that plays the body, but still puts the puck in the net. He’s been nearly impossible to shut down, even now that teams are preparing for him. It’s a long season ahead, with so much potential for both excellence and disaster. It’ll be very entertaining to see how Steen helps lead the Blues into the 2nd half of the regular season and into the playoff hunt.