There isn't much that's not going Alex Steen's way through the St. Louis Blues' first nine games of the season.
Case in point: early in the third period of Saturday night's 6-1 rout of the Nashville Predators. Steen slides in back of three Predators, collects a loose puck behind the Nashville net and banks the puck off Carton Hutton's backside.
The goal was Steen's second of the night and 10th of the season, tying him with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead. He's already passed his season total from a year ago (8) in just nine games.
But even the 29-year old wants to calm expectations that he's turning into some sort of Ovechkin-like goal scorer.
"It's only nine games ... nine games. He's been doing it for years. I've been doing it for nine games," Steen told Lou Korac of NHL.com.
If you look at the NHL leaderboard, Steen's name is up there with the likes of Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Henrik Sedin and Steven Stamkos. For a guy who's had two 20-goals seasons and four years of 40 or more points, the "underrated" tag is going to be thrown in Steen's direction now. I'd assume he'd take the baton from Loui Eriksson and Frans Nielsen, but, let's be real, those two guys will forever be labeled as "underrated", no matter what they do.
Along with T.J. Oshie and David Backes, the top line of the Blues has accounted for 18 of their 35 total goals. In his fifth season in St. Louis, those around the team realize just how valuable Steen is and has been to the team.
"To me, he's not underrated because we know how good of a player he is," said Blues television analyst Bernie Federko on a recent episode of Marek vs. Wyshynski.
"Maybe he's underrated around the league, but I think if you talked to most general managers they'd take him in a second. Alex Steen is right now, in my opinion, the backbone of this hockey club. He plays both ends of the ice very, very well. He plays the point on the power play; he kills penalties. He plays with that edge. He's a leader in the locker room. He's a leader on the ice."
The Blues face another season with Stanley Cup expectations and the pressures that come with it. For Steen, an unrestricted free agent this coming summer, he's developed into a vital piece of their core; one that they'll need to lean on if they're to reach their ultimate goal.
"As he goes, this team goes," Federko said. "He was very sour at the end of last year when the Blues got beat out by the LA Kings.
"I think right now he's on a mission."
- - - - - - -