When the St. Louis Blues visit Verizon Center Sunday to face the Washington Capitals, they will bring with them the only player in the NHL that has scored more goals than Alex Ovechkin.
Forward Alexander Steen has been nothing short of spectacular, leading the League with 17 goals in 18 games (having scored in all but four of them), making him the first player to score 17 or more goals in his team's first 18 games since 2005-06. With a goal and an assist in the Blues' 4-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday, he has also earned points in 13 consecutive games, the franchise's longest individual streak since Pierre Turgeon's 15-game streak in 1999-2000.
"He didn't even shoot it," Blues defenseman Roman Polak told reporters, "and I was already celebrating because I know it is going in."
Steen's early-season outburst has certainly caught the eyes of many, but the 29-year-old has been quietly productive throughout his nine-year career. Only eight players -- Ovechkin lncluded -- have more 15-goal season than Steen's seven since the 2005-06 season, so those who know him are far from surprised.
"He is absolutely unbelievable," said defenseman Tyson Strachan, Steen's former Blues teammate. "I was just always amazed that he was one of those guys that kind of stayed undercover, didn't get talked about that much, but pure natural talent. He works really hard and he's got a way of putting the puck in the net every time he gets a chance."
To Strachan's point, Steen's shooting percentage stands at 26.6 percent, second among NHL players who have taken at least 30 shots on goal (Capitals forward Joel Ward, on a goal-scoring tear of his own, ranks first at 28.1 percent).
So far this season, Steen has victimized the opposition in a variety of ways, utilizing his two-way acumen, and innate hockey sense -- his father, Thomas, spent 14 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets between 1981-1995 -- to seemingly score at will. He is as comfortable blasting a slap shot on the rush as he is cleaning up somebody else's mess around the crease.
"I think he's got all the tools to do it, but probably utmost is he just understands the game," Strachan said. "He's just a smart player. He grew up having a dad that played in the NHL and I'm sure being around the rink for all those days of your life probably helps. He just thinks the game really well, so he just seems to always be in the right spot at the right time and just making the right plays."
Steen has four goals and seven points in his last eight games against Washington, so while the Capitals may not be able to completely stop him, they hope that they can at least contain him.
"You try really, really hard," defenseman Karl Alzner, who will likely be tasked with shadowing Steen, said with a laugh. "Some of those guys who've got the hot stick, all they need is half a second. You've just got to do your best to watch him. ... It's kind of the same thing with Ovi: keep a guy on him as close as you can and you hope the puck doesn't come to him."
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