Once upon a time, not too long ago, I wanted Alexander Steen gone. Repackaged and sent out of town. I volunteered to drive him to the airport with Jay Bouwmeester.
Gone was the guy who put up 50-60 points and could blast a shot from the dot past a goaltender, and get back on defense. In its place was a man lucky enough to post 35 points and crack the second line. An older lion making a high wage. He was flailing in the wind back in November.
And then Craig Berube took over, implemented his game plan, and slowly reshaped the Blues. One of his key moves-a ballsy one-was moving Steen to the fourth line. Talk about a reality check. You were once the guy, and now you are sharing minutes with a couple kids. Instead of a scorer, you are a hustler.
Steen took to the role, keeping his mouth shut and grinding hard. He was reckless on the ice, and not in the locker room. Eventually, the moves came back. Just look at Wednesday’s Game 3 goal.
There it was. The Steen slap shot. Wicked and direct, Martin Jones had no chance of stopping it. Right when I thought the 35-year-old winger didn’t have it in him anymore, he blasted one from the past. I watched that replay a few times.
Then again, these days, it’s not the goals that make Steen’s game special; it’s the all-around tenacity and rebirth on both ends of the ice. Look no further than the first goal on Friday night at Enterprise Center.
Ivan Barbashev may have gotten credit for the goal, but it was Steen who made it possible. Brent Burns had gathered the puck behind the San Jose net, but he didn’t see an inbound #20 rushing in. Steen threw a shoulder into Burns, which sent the puck towards the boards where Barbashev ripped a shot that went off a Sharks defender and past Jones. Less than 60 seconds in, and the Blues led 1-0. They would never trail.
The goal was a patented example of the new Steen. A charging mad man who is still creating chances for his linemates, just on a different line and in different ways. He’s adapted to what the Blues needed him to be, giving way to younger guys like Robert Thomas to get minutes on the third line. A selfless veteran.
There was a time when I wanted Steen gone. The contract, declining production, and overall anchor on the team. Now, under Berube, I’m having second thoughts. Maybe he can contribute to this team, pushing them closer and closer to their first Cup final in 49 years. It turns out he was the man for the job. The fourth line leader.
I simply didn’t see this Steen renaissance coming, but it’s the latest symbolism of the Berube way. The Blues needed a true Chief to come in and mix things up, even if the parts didn’t fit right away. If you would have told me Steen would make the biggest impact on the fourth line back in October, I would have told you to switch from a Four Hands Incarnation IPA to Natural Light.
Few saw this coming, but here’s the thing. It’s working.
Alexander Steen has gone from declining asset to reborn player, finding new ways to survive in a league that chews up and spits out players. How long can this last? Like the Blues as a whole, I’m just going to sit back and watch.