ST. LOUIS — Alexander Steen has been on fire to start the season but, he insists, “I’m not doing anything different.”
Steen, in fact, says he has been building toward his current level of play the last few years through his off-season preparation, which includes running 15 kilometers
five times a week, roller blading with poles and doing
yoga. Steen, 29, takes care of his body away from the ice.
“He’s really similar to a player like (Detroit’s) Henrik Zetterberg from how I hear he approaches the game,” coach Ken Hitchcock says.
Moreover, Steen says, he’s making the most of his opportunity to play with quality offensive players.
So maybe Steen’s preparation and the players around him have simply led him to this point. Maybe. But the results thus far certainly stand out from any other start in his career.
Steen recently became the first NHL player to record 10 or more goals in his team’s first nine games since Chris Drury and Marian Hossa did it in 2006-07. He’s the first Blues player since Scott Young in 2000-01 to reach double digits in goals in the team’s first nine games. Brian Sutter holds the franchise record with 10 goals in the Blues’ first eight games in 1978-79.
Steen brings the Blues tremendous versatility. He’s one of the few players who can play wing or center, play against the opposing team’s best players and be a top penalty killer and power-play specialist. He also plays the point on the power play.
“I don’t view him as an offensive player,” Hitchcock says. “I view him as a complete player.”
As good as Steen has been the last few years, most players don’t realize how good he is until they have a chance to play with him. That has been the case for defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who came to the Blues from Calgary in an April trade, and Brenden Morrow, a September free-agent signee.
“You knew he was a solid player, but playing with him allows you to appreciate him that much more,” Bouwmeester says. “Just the way he works, he sets a good example for everyone.”
Morrow, who spent nearly his entire career playing with some pretty competitive Dallas Stars teams, also has newfound respect for Steen, who is tied with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead in goals (10) and is the Blues’ leading scorer with 15 points.
“He’s the closest I’ve seen to Jere Lehtinen,” Morrow says, referring to the former Dallas great. “I definitely appreciate him more. Most players need others to make them better. He makes any player he plays with better.”
It’s hard to believe Steen is in his sixth season since coming over from Toronto in a November 2008 trade. It could go down as one of the biggest steals in franchise history as the Blues received Carlo Colaiacovo along with Steen in exchange for Lee Stempniak.
All three players had a year left on their contract, with Colaiacovo and Steen’s salary combining for less than the $3.5 million Stempniak was owed the following season. Stempniak, who is now with his third team (Calgary) since leaving St. Louis, has had a nice career. But it doesn’t compare to the all-around game Steen brings to the ice.
* Chris Stewart is fine after leaving Saturday’s game in Nashville early. Stewart crashed hard into the boards after a dangerous push from behind by the Predators’ Patric Hornqvist.
* Magnus Paajarvi will miss some time after being hurt in the same game. He also took a pretty hard hit along the boards. With Maxim Lapierre returning from suspension after Tuesday’s game, the Blues are not expected to call up a forward to replace Paajarvi.
* Barret Jackman exited Monday’s practice early, but Hitchcock said afterward that was the plan entering practice. He should be OK Tuesday against Winnipeg.
* Steen tells me Stewart doesn’t get enough credit for how hard he works off the ice. Steen says the two have great chemistry on the power play and Stewart should be credited with a few more assists with his ability, and willingness, to stand in front and screen the goaltender.
* Hitchcock says Stewart’s game is there and his goals will come.
* On a side note, it really is disappointing how some youth hockey coaches and parents act in the stands both in the United States and Canada. It’s the responsibility of youth hockey organizations to put the best coaches behind the bench and keep the parents in check. USA hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk is the latest coach to tell me how bad things are getting. For all the talk we hear regarding player safety in the NHL, you would think parents would act appropriately. Encouraging your kids to injure an opponent or cheering when a player is hurt shouldn’t be tolerated. Thankfully, I rarely, if ever, see this in St. Louis.
You can follow Andy Strickland on Twitter at @andystrickland or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also writes about the Blues and the NHL at truehockey.com.