Sunday, January 8, 2017

Steen, Stastny good fit on line that deserves to stick

Veterans have produced 10 points past three games, never stay 
consistently together; Hitchcock vows to keep them on line with Yakupov

ST. LOUIS -- They sit in locker stalls separated by the door that leads to the training room in the Blues' locker room, always visibly talking at any chance, veterans of a younger roster this season.

But it's no secret that Blues center Paul Stastny and left wing Alexander Steen are on the same level, on and off the ice. And when it comes to clocking in for work, it's no secret that the vets would prefer to play on the same line.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Alexander Steen (20) and Paul Stastny (second from left) are all smiles
after a Stastny goal against Dallas on Saturday.

That hasn't always been the case in coach Ken Hitchcock's penchant for throwing Blues forwards in a blender, in his words, and seeing what comes out. 

But the past three games, they've stuck as a twosome, something Hitchcock loves when concocting his line combinations. The past two seasons at the outset, Hitchcock has started Steen and Stastny off together, only to break them up in different directions.

But judging by Saturday's 4-3 win against the Dallas Stars that has the Blues (21-14-5) 3-2 on this season-long six-game homestand that concludes Tuesday with a reunion with David Backes and the Boston Bruins, it may not be a bad idea to make this veteran duo stick.

It's obvious they go hand-in-hand, communicate well and have an understanding how each plays and what makes them click. Stastny (two goals, one assist) and Steen (two assists) combined for six points Saturday and have 10 points between them the past three games.

"I think we try to create space for each other," said Stastny, who has nine goals and 13 assists in 39 games. "It's not finding each other, sometimes it's almost like a pick-and-roll. It's all about creating time and space. Sometimes when he has it or I have it, we won't find each other, but we'll take sticks away or we'll get in front of guys to give each guy a second or two. I think when he's holding onto it, I can read what pocket he wants me to go into and I can find that. With 'Yak,' we know to give it to 'Yak' with speed if it's going to get into the corner."

'Yak' being right wing Nail Yakupov, who joined them to form a nice trio on the ice against the Stars, providing a dangerous option for Hitchcock.

"I thought Yakupov was a great fit for that line today," Hitchcock said after the game. "He gave them some speed and tenacity and aggressiveness to the net. I thought 'Yak' was a real good fit for them."

But it's obvious when Steen and Stastny are going, "It’s their deep play," Hitchcock said. "They don’t have speed off the rush, so it’s there deep play — the cycles, the puck strength and patience."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Paul Stastny gets a shot off Saturday against the Dallas Stars. Stastny had
two goals and an assist in a 4-3 victory at Scottrade Center.

Maybe it's those locker room talks that translate onto the ice, or maybe it's because "we both had fathers who played the game," Steen, who has four goals and 19 assists in 34 games, said of Thomas Steen and Peter Stastny. "We discuss a lot, even with them at some point. I think we see the game similar, we talk a lot about certain situations that are recurring situations, what we like to do, where holes might be, what the other guy's thinking so we're on the same page. That part makes it that much more enjoyable, too."

Hitchcock liked what he saw from the line Steen, Stastny and Yakupov, enough so that he plans -- for the time being -- on sticking with it.

"We’re going to keep that line together," he said.


  1. Watch the Dallas third goal and tell me that both players did not make soft plays.

    1. These are not robots. These are human beings. Mistakes happen. Klingberg happens to be a darn good hockey player. Made a move around Stastny, who by the way recovered and got a stick on the guy's shot. It happened to go in. Should have been stopped.

  2. I'll believe it when I see it, Hitch! Was there any mention of the woeful shot totals this season?