Steen credits just about everyone but himself for his hot start

News-DemocratOctober 28, 2013 

— Don't try to define Alexander Steen or fit his style of game into a certain classification.

"I really don't like when people do that," the Blues' high-scoring winger said Monday. "That was something that would get to me early, having the label of being a certain kind of that's your thing. I don't like it."

Perhaps the best description of Steen these days is one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL.

He entered Monday with 10 goals and 15 points in nine games, tied with Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin for the NHL goal-scoring lead in two fewer games than Ovechkin's 11.

Steen had only eight goals in 40 games last season and never has scored more than 24 in his career.

He also is an elite checker, the rare forward that creates instant offense with his defense while shutting down his own man. He kills penalties, plays the point on the power play and can be used at wing, center and on virtually any line.

"He's obviously got a great shot, but I think he's got that feeling right now that he is an elite player in this league," Blues captain David Backes said. "He's finally got that feeling that he can dominate any game he wants. When he takes it upon himself to do that, it's impressive to watch."

Steen's red-hot start has placed in some elite company in franchise history.

Brian Sutter set the Blues record by scoring 10 goals in the first eight games in 1978-89. But by scoring 10 in nine games, Steen has done something that Hall of Famer Brett Hull did only twice (1989-90 and 1990-91) and no one on the Blues has done since Scott Young in 2000-01.

The last Blues player with at least 15 points in the first nine games of a season was Kevin Miller in 1993.

Steen has a four-game goal-scoring streak and six goals during that stretch.

"You work hard and get opportunities," said Steen, who has combined with linemates Backes and T.J. Oshie for 18 goals and 35 points in nine games.

"We've been really working hard and creating a lot of chances off of our forecheck," Steen said. "Osh has been unreal these last few games, picking off passes and turning pucks over all on his own it seems like. Backes is creating so much space and winning key draws, a lot of the details that go unnoticed.

"I feel like all three of us complement each other and are helping each other with those details. That's why we're getting a lot of chances."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock says Steen is the representative player for the system he wants from his team.

"If you're going to be successful in the NHL, you can create as much offense as anybody playing smart defense," Hitchcock said. "He's a smart defensive player that's learned to become an offensive player. I don't know what his numbers were as a kid, but his offense is a direct reflection of his work ethic."

Welcome to St. Louis

The 29-year-old Steen began his career in Toronto and was the Maple Leafs' first-round pick in 2002 (24th overall).

He had 18 goals as a rookie in 2005-06 and 48 goals in his first three NHL seasons. But Steen bounced around on different lines under several different coaches, eventually traded to the Blues in 2008 along with defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo for forward Lee Stempniak.

The impetus behind that trade was a strong recommendation from Blues' pro scouting director and former NHL player Rob DiMaio.

"He was a top pick in Toronto and he was still a developing player," Armstrong said. "Alex is off to a great start now, but I think he's always been a competitive two-way player He's on a hot streak right now, but he's not a prolific goal scorer.

"We need him to be a really competitive two-way player that is counted on to provide offense and I know he can do that."

Steen has thrived since joining the Blues, scoring 83 goals and 192 points in 293 games. He is on pace to easily surpass the career-high 24 goals he scored in 2009-10.

"I really didn't know that much about St. Louis because we had only played them I think once here before I came here," Steen said. "But when you get traded like that, you're excited because the team that traded for you believes in you. You feel like something exciting is about to happen."

Steen is the son of former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen, who had 264 goals and 817 points in 950 games. Alexander Steen was born in Winnipeg, but also grew up in Sweden and could make that country's Olympic squad this winter.

"He's helped me a lot in the beginning, especially with what goes on and what to expect in the NHL," Alexander Steen said. "When you have your ups and downs it's easier to talk to someone that's been through everything himself."

Deflecting praise

Steen continually deflects praise toward teammates he says are making this scoring run possible. He credited Chris Stewart for screening goalies with the Blues on the power play.

"Stewie's been a key part of three or four of my goals, just by taking the goalie's eyes," Steen said. "There's no way you score from out there with a wrister if the goalie sees the puck."

Backes isn't questioning Steen's meteoric rise up the NHL goal-scoring list, he just hopes it continues.

"He's tough to play against and battles every single shift," Backes said. "He never seems to run out of energy."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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