Just when you thought Alex Steen's early-season scoring spree was spent, the 29-year-old St. Louis Blues sniper has begun to cash in again.
After a 16-game point streak was stopped cold with a three-game pointless slide, Steen has scored three goals in his past two games to become only the second NHLer to reach the 20-goal mark in this young season.
He's now tied with Alex Ovechkin for the goal-scoring lead and his 30 points are only three points fewer than Art Ross Trophy leader Sidney Crosby. Steen also is tied with the Anaheim Ducks dynamic duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry for the league-lead in game-winning goals at five.
The Blues forward also is tied for the league lead in plus/minus rating at plus-16 with Anaheim left wing Dustin Penner, Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa and San Jose Sharks defenceman Justin Braun.
Steen's father, Thomas, could not be more proud of the way his son has been played through 24 games. On most nights, Dad hurries home from his day job on Winnipeg's city council, representing the ward of Elmwood-East Kildonan, to watch the Blues. If St. Louis has the night off, then he'll watch the Jets.
"I probably see between 90 and 95 per cent of his game," said Thomas, who played 1,006 combined regular season and playoff games for the Winnipeg Jets and another 350-plus in Sweden and Germany.
He was in the crowd at the MTS Centre to see Alex score twice in a game last month.
If the son can keep up his offensive prowess, he's not only sure to beat his career high of 24 goals, scored in 2009-10, but he has a good shot at surpassing his dad's most productive year of 30 goals in 1984-85.
"I hope he does," Thomas said.
Alex also will likely be named to the Swedish Olympic team. The Winnipeg-born Steen has never played for Sweden in an Olympic Games or a world championship, just a couple of world junior tournaments.
"I haven't thought about the possibility, but he deserves it," Thomas said.
Here is a breakdown of the younger Steen's average minutes per game and shots per game as well as goals scored in the past five seasons:
2009-10: 16:16 mins, 2.78 shots, 24 goals in 68 games
2010-11: 19:33 mins, 3.03 shots, 20 goals in 72 games
2011-12: 19:07 mins, 3.12 shots, 15 goals in 43 games
2012-13: 18:59 mins, 2.69 shots, 8 goals in 48 games
2013-14: 20:41 mins, 3.29 shots, 20 goals in 24 games
Steen was going strong a couple years ago with 13 goals in his first 36 games, but then a concussion derailed his season and kept him on the sidelines for 39 outings. Still, his output that year wasn't even close to the pace he has set this fall.
So why the massive improvement? Sure, the Blues are rolling. They are one point behind first-overall Chicago with an outstanding record of 18-3-3 and two games in hand.
Sure, St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock believes Steen is in the best condition of his career and playing with confidence.
Sure, Steen's ice-time has increased and he's shooting the puck a little bit more.
But should these reasons translate into Steen moving into Ovechkin and Crosby's neighbourhood?
"He looks happy and not much is bothering him," Thomas said. "He plays for a great team that is working together.
"I think every year a player gets a little better, a little more comfortable. But he feels good, his spirit is good."
When asked why his son's spirit is in a good place, Thomas declined to elaborate.
"That's not for me to talk about," he said.
Word around the Blues, however, was Steen and wife Sophie split a couple years ago. That's never an easy process to go through. But with his personal life repaired, Steen has flourished and he remains close to his father.
The two are involved in the Amadeus Steen Foundation, a children's charity in Manitoba. Amadeus Steen was Alex's brother, who passed away when he was two months old because of a heart condition.
Before the season, Alex visited Winnipeg to see the opening of the Great Big Adventure, a 12,000-foot indoor playground funded by the Amadeus Steen Foundation.
"Sure, we talk on the phone once in a while," Thomas said. "But like most kids, he calls more when things aren't going well.
"So he hasn't called much this year."
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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