Tag: Alex Steen

New York Rangers v St. Louis Blues

Blues’ biggest question: Are they good enough down the middle?


Jonathan Toews. Anze Kopitar. Jeff Carter. Patrice Bergeron. Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik Zetterberg.

Teams that win the Stanley Cup almost always have an elite center. As you can see, some of them even have two.

Do the St. Louis Blues?

The answer to that will depend on your definition of elite. If it’s a generous one, then maybe Paul Stastny gets the nod. Otherwise, it’s hard to answer yes.

Next season, the Blues’ top two lines could look something like this:

Alex Steen – Paul Stastny — David Backes
Jaden Schwartz — Jori Lehtera — Vladimir Tarasenko

If one of Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie or Robby Fabbri can step into a top-six role, coach Ken Hitchcock has said that Backes could be moved to the third line.

Regardless of how the lines shake out, it’s no surprise that the Blues were left wanting more from Stastny, their big free-agency signing from last summer.

“Paul Stastny needs to be a bigger part of our group,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “We need him to be a bigger and better part of our team.”

Stastny had 46 points in 74 games last season. He then managed just one goal, with no assists, in the Blues’ six-game playoff loss to the Wild.

Not enough from a player who was supposed to be a difference-maker in the tough Western Conference.

“I think in every sport if you’re strong up the middle you’re usually a strong team,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per Yahoo Sports. “The center icemen seem to be the catalyst, usually offensively. They’re the guys who have the puck the most and make maybe the most decisions on the ice based on the number of touches they have in a game.”

Which is why there’s so much excitement in Washington about young Evgeny Kuznetsov.

But we digress.

The Blues are obviously a strong team. Their regular-season record is proof of that. But they haven’t been able to win that elusive Cup, so it’s only natural to pore over their roster in search of why.

Their lack of a truly elite center — and this goes for good teams like the Wild, Predators, Canadiens, Rangers, and Jets — may be as good an answer as any.

Related: Doug Armstrong is under pressure

Blues need more — much more — from Backes, Stastny and Oshie

St Louis Blues v Arizona Coyotes

Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera.

What do those six have in common?

Well, aside from all playing for St. Louis, they’re also the only six Blues to have scored a point in the opening playoff round against Minnesota.

The list of those with zeros in the points column is much, much longer.

And that list is topped by three of the team’s highest-paid and most influential forwards — captain David Backes, alternate captain T.J. Oshie and Paul Stastny, the $7-million dollar man. That trio has combined for no goals, no assists and a collective minus-2 rating thus far; Backes and Stastny have put just eight total shots on goal and nobody seems to be driving play or dictating tempo like they were during the regular season.

“We don’t draw a single penalty tonight for good reason,” Backes told the Post-Dispatch after falling behind 2-1 in the series on Monday night. “We’re not on our toes, we’re not carrying the play in their zone and making them take penalties.”

St. Louis, who boasted the league’s fourth-best power play during the regular season, has had the man advantage just five times in three games and, as Backes mentioned, not once in Game 3. It’s definitely playing a role in the lack of production — 10 of Backes’ 26 goals this year came on the PP, as did 15 of Stastny’s 46 points.

But there’s more to it than the power play.

The Blues look stifled on Monday night, unable to generate much of anything in the way of offense. They put just 17 shots on Devan Dubnyk — eight through the first two periods — and lost whatever momentum they might’ve gained after a big win (and Tarasenko’s hat trick) in Game 2.

“[The Wild] got to show their skill, speed and ability,” Backes said. “We were playing catch-up all night.”

And now the Blues are playing catch-up in the series as well.

Tarasenko’s hat trick has the Wild singing the Blues


Vladimir Tarasenko started the scoring for the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, and he finished it, too.

The 23-year-old winger, a rising star for the Blues, recorded his first career Stanley Cup playoff hat trick and St. Louis evened its series with the Minnesota Wild thanks to a 4-1 win in Game 2.

Tarasenko struck twice late in the first period with his goals coming less than five minutes apart to give the Blues an early lead. One came off a deflection from an Alex Steen shot, as Tarasenko was cruising in front of the net. The second, however, is one goalie Devan Dubnyk would probably like to have back.

With Dubnyk leaning slightly to his left, Tarasenko beat him with a quick shot from a bad angle to up the Blues’ lead. He added another into an empty net with 17 seconds remaining.

The hats followed.

The Wild actually had a chance to tie this game in the third period.

With less than nine minutes remaining, seconds after Charlie Coyle waltzed around T.J. Oshie and then rang his shot off the cross bar, David Backes pulled the puck off the goal line and Jake Allen covered it up with Minnesota players buzzing around his net, taking away what could’ve been the equalizer. That close to tying it up.

Video: Tarasenko scores twice giving the Blues an early lead

St. Louis Blues v New York Rangers

St. Louis Blues’ sniper Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice in the first period to give the Blues a 2-0 lead.

The 23-year-old opened the scoring tipping home an Alex Steen feed at 13:18 for his first of the playoffs.

Less than five minutes later, Tarasenko caught Devan Dubnyk off the post just enough to sneak a shot short side on the Wild starter.

Steen and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk have the assists on both goals.

Steen, Tarasenko back from injury, will play in Blues’ season finale

New York Islanders v St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues will have a shot at clinching the top seed in the Western Conference on Saturday, and they’ll go after it with two of their best offensive weapons back in the lineup.

Vladimir Tarasenko, out since Mar. 31 with a leg injury and Alex Steen, out since Mar. 28 with a lower-body ailment, will both play when the Blues face the Wild at Scottrade (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

Tarasenko, who leads the Blues in goals with 36, has missed all five of the team’s games in April. He’s going to be an incredibly important player come playoff time; the Russian winger emerged as St. Louis’ most dynamic sniper this season and, last spring, showed an ability to raise his level by scoring a team-high four goals in six games during a Round 1 loss to Chicago.

Steen, who had 24 goals and 62 points in 73 games this year, will also be a key figure for the Blues — but in a different sort of way. He needs to show something more after struggling to make an impact in previous playoff appearances. In 25 career postseason games for St. Louis, Steen has just five goals and a minus-5 rating — last year he only scored one goal against the ‘Hawks, after netting a career-high 33 in the regular season.