Alexander Steen has been quietly playing sound and proficient hockey for a very talent-laden St. Louis Blues squad the last couple of seasons.
This season, he’s decided to turn the dial up to 11.
In 24 games this year, Steen has scored 20 goals, good for the league lead—a lock he shares with some guy named Ovechkin.
He’s also been scoring at an incredibly efficient rate. His shooting percentage currently stands at 25.3 percent. That means for every four shots that Steen takes, one of them goes in.
That held true for Steen in Wednesday night's game against Colorado—Steen had four shots on net, one of them went in.
That’s a tough pace to keep up with, and it’s even tougher to argue that Steen won’t eventually cool off and settle into a more standard pace. After all, Steen has never been more than a career 40-50 point player, and he’s never scored more than 24 goals in a single NHL season.
But while it may be unlikely that Steen finishes the season scoring at a goal-per-game rate, the fact that he is scoring is no accident.
Steen’s wrist shot has been other-worldly this year. He’s always had a bullet of a shot—a trait Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock acknowledges by playing him at point man on the power play—but his cannon has been wildly accurate the last 24 games.
Not only that, but his opponents haven’t seemed to pick up on the Steen sensation. In far too many offensive situations, Steen has been given so much time and space he could make a sandwich out on the ice. Many times, this is a result of smart play by his linemates and defenseman, but if opposing defenders are looking to stifle Steen, they are going to have to start using a more proactive approach.
He scored goal No. 20 Wednesday night on the power play against the Colorado Avalanche. He snuck in back door on the Avs' penalty-killing unit, received a beautiful cross-ice feed from captain David Backes and utilized the most casual of snap shots for a tap-in goal.
His ability to get inside positioning on opposing defenders has made him lethal. If you’re looking to build up a scouting report on the 29-year-old former first-round draft pick, that’s where you need to start.
Much of Steen’s luck this year has been just that—luck. If you were to analyze exactly what Steen is doing differently this year than he’s done every other year, you won’t get very far. The St. Louis Blues are a very imposing team, and Steen is as willing as any of his teammates to crash the net, and that has resulted in a plethora of scoring opportunities. Steen has been a benefactor of some very smart plays. And luck.
Yes, it is unlikely that Alex Steen continues scoring at such a torrid pace. Like all great players, his luck will eventually turn and he will find some statistical normalcy in his scoring. But the fact that Steen has been scoring—and scoring a lot—is not a sham, and until opposing teams start to dissect the hockey smarts that Steen and his teammates bring to the table, don't expect Steen to stop.