Kukla's Korner Hockey
ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has agreed to terms with forward Alexander Steen on a three-year contract extension worth $17.4 million.
Steen, 29, is having a career year, posting 36 points including 22 goals through 33 games this season. The 6’0, 212-pound forward tallied 20 goals in his first 24 games, becoming the fastest player in franchise history to reach that plateau since Brett Hull in 1990-91. In addition, Steen scored in each of the club’s first 10 wins, becoming the first player in National Hockey League (NHL) history to do so since Eric Lindros in 1993-94. From Oct. 17 to Nov. 16, he became the first Blue since Pierre Turgeon (1999-2000) to record at least a point in 13 straight games, a stretch that also stands as the second longest by any player this season. Overall this season, the Winnipeg, Manitoba native ranks highly in most major offensive categories, including 9th in points, 2nd in goals, 15th in power play goals (5), 4th in game-winning goals (5), 17th in shots (112) and 6th in shooting percentage (19.6%). Additionally, Steen is one of the NHL’s most well rounded players, as he joins Anze Kopitar (LAK) as the only forwards that average over 15 minutes of even strength time, two minutes of shorthanded time and three minutes of power play time per game.
Currently in his ninth NHL season and sixth as a Blue, Steen has totaled 339 points including 145 goals and 194 assists to go along with 246 penalty minutes in 570 career games. A former first round pick of Toronto in 2002, Steen was originally acquired by the Blues from the Maple Leafs (along with Carlo Colaiacovo) in exchange for Lee Stempniak on Nov. 24, 2008
from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
What if the Blues played a home game and 16,514 fans showed up?
Entering Thursday night’s tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scottrade, that’s precisely where the team’s average attendance stood. That’s not very good. Actually, it’s significantly lower than last season’s average after a work stoppage shut down the game through December.
If the Blues’ season-ending average attendance remains where it currently sits, team president Bruce Affleck would describe the situation as “a red flag.”
“There is a concern,” Affleck said earlier this week. “We need better support to make this sustainable.”
from Jonas Siegel of TSN,
The Maple Leafs were blasted 6-3 by the Blues at Scottrade Center on Thursday night. It was Toronto's eighth loss in the past 10 games (2-6-2), 13th in the past 19, and a drastic reversal in course from an inspired home loss to the Kings one night earlier.
"Tonight it looked like we were totally brain-dead in a lot of areas," said Randy Carlyle, following the defeat....
Concern has to be inching ever upward with the mounting losses and little to no sustained improvement. The Leafs have just two regulation victories since the start of November and face the defending Stanley Cup champs at home on Saturday.
"Our concern has been very high for a while here," said Carlyle. "We thought with our performance [Wednesday] night it would be something we could build on, but we just didn't have any kind of an energy to be able to put forth an effort that was needed."
via Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal,
While this season looks like an out-of-body experience for Alex Steen (20 goals and 32 points and plus 13), St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock says this is no one-off.
He’s the real thing, and the Blues have to resign him for, say, five years at between $5.5 million and $6 million a season. He’s UFA.
“Steen is the closest thing I’ve seen to Jere Lehtinen in the last 15 years,” said Hitchcock, who had the gifted winger Lehtinen on his 1999 Cup team in Dallas.
“He’s hard on every puck, he plays against the other team’s best players, kills penalties when we’re down two men with David Backes.”
He’s a prime Selke contender as best two-way forward.
from Michael Russo of the StarTribune,
This time, I really mean it. It seems every year for the past three, I write a column on this being the “Year of the St. Louis Blues.”
Turns out I was just ahead of the game — or completely wrong.
Two years ago, St. Louis’ 109-point season was spoiled in a sweep in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. The Kings again dispatched the Blues last season in a hard-fought 4 vs. 5 matchup in Round 1.
This year? Nobody’s beating the Big, Bad Blues.
At 18-4-3, they’re one of the best teams in the NHL, a well-balanced team from top to bottom with four lines that can be rolled, a deep defense corps of six and two great goaltenders in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
Offensively, they rank second. Defensively, they rank fifth. Their power play stands atop the rest. Their home rink has been a place of dominance.
continued plus other hockey notes...
from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,
Roy's post-game news conference was unremarkable until he praised winger Patrick Bordeleau, the Avalanche enforcer who scored the only goal against the Blues, and used that as a jumping-off point to add: "You know what, I was very mad at the end because I have been jabbed by different coaches around the league, especially Hitchcock when he said that was junior stuff, talking to players, talking to the referees. But I saw a guy on the other side who was talking to players and then was also talking to the referee and got the referee (mad).
Seems to me that there's different rules for everybody in this league. I guess the old guys are allowed to do whatever they want and I guess us, because we are younger, we are not allowed to say anything. I am a little (mad) about that."
Did Roy say anything directly back to Hitchcock?
"I can't say that here, I'm sorry," said Roy.
Outside the visiting locker room, when Hitchcock was told of the gist of Roy's comments, the St. Louis coach responded: "Oh, give me a break. Tell Patrick to shut the (bleep) up." Then he asked if Roy had really said that, and repeated his suggestion.
more and below, you can watch Roy make his remarks.
Rask on the goal via the Boston Globe,
“I gave up that (the?) worst goal of my career probably there.”
The Bruins lost in the shootout 3-2 to the Blues.
from Bernie Miklasz of the Stl Louis Post-Dispatch,
I want to enjoy watching this Blues team. They deserve to be judged by what they’re doing instead of being lumped in with past disappointments.
Feel free to laugh at me later, but I believe this version of the Blues will ultimately prove to have more substance and quality than the recent Blues teams that raised hopes before deflating the party balloons.
This doesn’t mean I think the 2014 Blues will destroy all challengers to win the Stanley Cup. But I refuse to discount their chances by presuming failure up ahead. Why do that? Besides, the truth will emerge a few months from now, in what should be a brutally difficult Western Conference playoffs.
Wednesday I asked Blues GM Doug Armstrong why the current Blues should be viewed as more capable and trustworthy than their recent predecessors.
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Overall, Halak is 10-2-3, but he now owns a 2.48 GAA, which ranks 23rd in the NHL, and a .900 save percentage, which is 34th in the league.
The drop-off could have the Blues dealing with an array of thoughts as they prepare for a road matchup with the Buffalo Sabres at 6 tonight at the First Niagara Center.
Have the past three games, which includes a 7-3 win over Colorado, been a hiccup for Halak, or should there be reason to worry about relying on him as the starter on a club with Stanley Cup aspirations?
It all adds up to fascinating intrigue heading into tonight, when Halak goes up against the goalie who was speculated last summer to be his potential successor, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.
The Sabres sit last in the NHL standings with a record of 5-16-1, but remarkably Miller has a .919 save percentage, good for 28th in the league.
Miller, 33, is in the final year of a five-year, $31.3 million contract with Buffalo, which may be inclined to move the netminder, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Blues are believed to be one of the teams that inquired about Miller last offseason, but it appears that that ship has sailed.
from Jason Kay of The Hockey News,
According to reports, the Ottawa Senators yesterday had their worst-attended home game since 2004 when their afternoon 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets drew an announced crowd of 15,535.
The weak turnout comes on the heels of a piece by the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch that analyzes the downturn in seats sold at Canadian Tire Centre. The Sens, according to figures assembled by espn.com, rank 20th among the 30 NHL clubs in terms of percentage capacity, by far the lowest of the Canadian franchises....
Similarly, the St. Louis Blues’ attendance numbers are a red flag. THN’s pre-season pick to the win the Stanley Cup, the Blues have lost just once in regulation at home and have the league’s second best goal differential at plus-20 (behind only San Jose). They play a high-tempo, physical style that should engage spectators, yet they are averaging just 16,547 at Scottrade Center, filling the building to 86.4 percent capacity. That’s eighth-worst in the league. And they didn’t sell out any of their three playoff games last season.
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