The usual suspects have started the season near the top of the list of top goal scorers: The Washington Capitals‘ Alex Ovechkin is second with 10; Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay also has 10; the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby has eight. But the name listed above all of them? Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues, who led the NHL with 12 goals in 11 games though Friday. If you’re not familiar with him, don’t worry — you are not alone.
The 29-year-old Winnipeg native was the 24th overall pick in the 2002 entry draft and has a career high of 24 goals set during the 2009-10 season. Up until this season Steen averaged one goal every four games. So what is fueling his current goal-per-game pace? Good old fashioned puck luck.
We often see these type of fluke performances early in the season. Last year Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks had nine goals on 24 shots (37.5 percent shooting) in five games only to go ice-cold the rest of the way, scoring eight goals in the regular season’s final 43 contests. This year another Shark, Tomas Hertl, scored six goals in the first three games but has lit the lamp just twice in the 10 games since.
Steen has had a nice career, but he has never been known as a prolific goal scorer. From 2005 to the end of last season, he had taken 1,355 shots and scored on 123 of them for a 9 percent conversion rate, which is about league average. This year he is lighting the lamp on every third shot, which if continued would shatter the previous post-lockout best (minimum 100 shots taken) set by Mike Ribeiro in 2007-08 with 25.2 percent. I don’t think anyone expects Steen to keep on a 89-goal pace, but don’t be too surprised if he just barely sets a new career high in goals scored with 30 by season’s end.
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.