Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Taking the initiative, Steen providing much-needed offense

Blues winger leads team with 11 goals,
has points in seven of last eight games

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- After the Blues had just dismantled the Anaheim Ducks 5-1 in the second game of the season, all Alex Steen could do was laugh and joke.

Steen, the do-all winger for the Blues, was obviously pleased that his team had its way with the Ducks, earning a 5-1 victory.

Never mind that the Blues just pumped 53 shots at two helpless Ducks goalies, Jonas Hiller and Curtis McElhinney. Steen had a whopping nine of them -- or five less than the Ducks.

"There were a couple (shots) that I thought were destined," Steen joked at the time. "Couldn't get them in today. It was tough."

Steen, who came out of the gates firing from all over the ice, saw minimal results. He started with no goals in the first seven games and one in 11 games.

The start was on the heels in which the Winnipeg, Manitoba native produced career-highs in goals (24) and points (47).

Even with the slow start, Steen always said he felt like he was "close." There were some shots that clanged off posts, crossbars and maybe missing the net by a hair.

Steen felt like his fortunes would eventually turn.

And with injuries to key offensive cogs Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie and David Perron, Steen's fortunes had to turn. Somebody needed to take an initiative and lead an offense crippled with injuries and challenged to score goals.

After netting his team-leading 11th goal on Tuesday, Steen certainly has found his offensive niche. And the Blues, who have scored once in a game in seven of the last 14, need that go-getter in the worst way while the injured are on the mend.

"I've been shooting a lot of pucks this year," Steen said. "I've had some unfortunate breaks to start but now, I've gotten some fortunate breaks."

Steen has gone from playing with familiar checking linemates Jay McClement and B.J. Crombeen, to skating with Patrik Berglund and Crombeen Tuesday in Atlanta. He's also skated with Matt D'Agostini, played on the top line with various linemates and still continues to not miss a beat doing so.

"His determination level is at the top of the charts," Blues coach Davis Payne said Wednesday. "He's making plays, he's feeling like he can take an extra step, get to an extra area and hit his spot. The past couple games ... Vancouver game in particular, a backhand goal and then last night, there wasn't a heck of a lot of room on (former Blue Chris) Mason there on the pass there that went high to low, through the seam. He put it into a pretty good spot right under the bar. Not too many guys stop shots when he's putting them into those spots.

"It's great to see. We need more of that. Hopefully he can continue that tomorrow night against Detroit."

Steen is currently in one of those hot zones, tallying 11 points (seven goals) in the last 11 games, including points in seven of the last eight games for a Blues team that is 23rd in the league in goals per game (2.52).

"If you watch him play, he's playing unreal for us," Crombeen said. "He's getting some timely goals and they're great efforts by him. It's not someone just giving him a great pass and he puts it in. He's working, he's getting in those areas, he's winning the battles and he's making a great play on top of it.

"He's a guy that does a lot of things that go unnoticed. He was asked to be in a checking role and that's what he did. He still scored 40-something points in a checking role, which is pretty unbelievable. He never complains. He does what's asked of him, goes out and works hard and right now, he's been put in a role where he's getting some offensive chances and he's making the most of it."

Steen, who only trails David Backes (24) in points with 22, leads the team in shots with 110 (Brad Boyes is second with 85). Despite being known as a shutdown player, the offensive attributes continue to peak. Steen is giving the Blues' flickering sun a shining light.

"I wanted to be relied upon to be bringing (the offense) anyway during the year," Steen said. "It started kind of slow, but it's picked up a little bit. ... It's always fun to score goals. You feel like you're helping your team."

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