x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

In-form Blues centre plays down comparisons to club great Hull, writes Gregg Patton

Alexander Steen of the St Louis Blues. AFP
Alexander Steen of the St Louis Blues. AFP

A goal can be a work of art, the result of a creative move or the perfect flick of the wrist.

Or the puck can find the net off a fickle deflection or skip past a goalie blinded by skaters on his doorstep.

Maybe the latter is why Alexander Steen of the St Louis Blues is not making too much of his early scoring outburst.

The centre, 29, leads the league with 11 goals, one more than a man who has led the NHL in goals three times, Alexander Ovechkin.

By game No 9, Steen’s spree brought to mind the kind of streak that the all-time Blues great Brett Hull might have strung together. Steen was having none of it.

“We shouldn’t be comparing myself to Brett Hull,” Steen said to NHL.com. “Ovechkin has been doing this for years. I’ve been doing it for nine games.”

Make that 10 games. The next time out, against the Winnipeg Jets, Steen scored the game-winning goal with 59 seconds left, the second time this season he broke a tie in the final minute.

His prolific, and timely, scoring – he also has five assists – has kept the Blues near the top of the Central Division standings. They have only one loss in regulation and have beaten the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks twice in two meetings.

St Louis began the season as an expected Western Conference contender. Steen’s production would not have been as obviously predicted. His goal-scoring high for a season is 24 in 2009/10.

The Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, though, sees a man who never stops progressing.

“He a perfect example of a player who is diligent about making himself better,” Hitchcock said. “He’s smart, competitive and he sees the game the right way.”

He has the bloodlines, too. His father, Thomas Steen, was one of the NHL’s early Swedish stars, playing 14 years for the Jets in Winnipeg, where Alexander was born.

The Steens have dual Canadian and Swedish citizenship. When Alexander scored his first NHL goal, for the Toronto Maple Leafs eight years ago, he and dad became the first Swedish father-son combination to score in the NHL.

The younger Steen, with 134 career goals, has a long way to catch the elder Steen (264), but obviously, personal accolades and achievements are not his focus.

Steen has been working just as hard off the ice as on to spread around the credit. He said his linemates, David Backes and TJ Oshie, are the reason “why I feel comfortable and confident. They are creating all these situations for me”.

Ultimately, of course, it is not how they go in the net, it is how many.

sports@thenational.ae

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