Jack of all trades forward Alexander Steen, who is a left wing by trade but lines up at center and on the right wing when the Blues need him to, stood in the team locker room at the conclusion of the season, there with his teammates cleaning out their belongings before heading off for the summer.
Steen, wearing a boot on his left, and no, it wasn't a cowboy boot picked up in the Music City, played the entire postseason -- all but Game 5 of the second round -- with a broken left foot and took injections to freeze the area affected.
It's what hockey players do to sacrifice a chance at winning the Stanley Cup, but now that the Blues' season has come to an end, the Blues' assistant captain talks about his injury, a reflection on the season and what Blues fans can expect from this team moving forward:
Can you reflect now after a couple days of thinking about it?
Yeah, it's still fresh. I think you look back at the season as a whole, there was some obvious ups and some obvious downs. I think this group was resilient. We stick together in good times and in bad. I think that really showed this year into the playoffs, I think with the type of game that we were playing and how much more consistent we were with our game and the fact that when things weren't really bouncing our way or going our way, we upped our work ethic and fell back on our structure and obviously our goaltending and (we) kind of pushed forward. It's a tough series against Nashville. It's a good club. They play hard. It was very tight games and what stings is we had such good goaltending, and when you have such a good goaltender and he gets hot on top of that, it can go a long way and to have that fall short against Nashville was tough to swallow. But saying that, now moving forward, we have a good group. I think we're excited. We've got a big summer ahead of us. We're going to put in the work this summer and then next season, whatever happens with this Vegas draft, we'll deal with that and obviously we'll get 'Fabs' back at some point, beginning hopefully of next year. The young guys we called up from Chicago when we needed them. We had some injury stuff. They not only came up and took a spot, they pulled some heavyweight for us. It really helped us move that ball forward. They're going to be key next year, too.
You're one of the constants in this transition in this league. How do you feel about the young core overall?
Like I said, I feel good. I think the biggest thing for us or that we have is the unity that we have and I think the pride that we have in the room, not only to execute what we want to do internally us as players in the room, but we have a strong belief of the fact that we're representing our city and the fans of St. Louis and how much support they give us night in and night out. When we were going through our tough time there and early on in the season, it didn't sit well with the boys and obviously we had a coaching change and had to take a real good look at ourselves in the mirror. Like I said, resilient group, stuck together, found a way to battle our way through that time and that's what you've got to do.
What did it take for you to keep playing despite your injury?
It's playoff time. It's something that all the guys go through both sides, both teams. I'm sure Nashville's sitting over there with some injuries. We had some guys that felt like were in beast mode. 'Bobbo,' (Robert Bortuzzo) I told him he was in beast mode all the time. He was just sacrificing throwing himself in front of shots, 'Stas' (Paul Stastny) comes back from a significant leg injury, 'Uppy,' (Scottie Upshall) he's going to take a shot-blocking course this summer; he was throwing his face in front of some of them. It's just part of our identity as a team, I think.
Is it a broken bone you have?
Yeah, it's broken on the left toe, outside, and then the reason I missed Game 5 was (blocked a shot in Game 4 at Nashville) ... I don't even know how to explain it. It's basically a bone bruise to the navicular bone, or something like that. You can talk to the doctors.
Did you take pain shots before each game?
Yeah, we have a good group of doctors. The reason why I didn't practice was it was difficult to get my foot in a skate, but the doctors did a good job. The game days we'd go in and take a shot about a half hour before warmups and off we went.
When you were talking about the tough times you went through, was there a common denominator that pulled you guys together?
I think I said it after the game last game that ... I'd love for everybody to see what goes on inside these four walls. Not just when you guys are not here but before games and things like that, the unity, when we're on the road, the camaraderie we have and the ... I don't even know what words to put in; you get the picture. It's a proud group and it's a pleasure playing with these guys. To see what a lot of the guys went through during this playoff run and in previous playoff runs, it's a good group.
From a veteran perspective and moving forward, what should the expectations of this team be heading into next year?
I think we should be very excited. I think we have work to do. We've got to make sure we have a good summer here and prepare ourselves for another season of battles. The league just seems to get tighter and tighter. Our division's a good division. There's going to be some changes. Some of the teams that finished under us are going to be pushing for next season, too. We've got a lot of young guys that are playing well. We've got a lot of veteran guys that are extremely dedicated, not only to the on-ice stuff but to their bodies but to the off-ice workouts and treatments and everything that goes into being at the top of your game so you can win a championship. I talk about 'Snakey' all the time, he's in my opinion, one of the best goaltenders in the league. When you have that, you have a chance. It's up to us to come back next year, use that excitement and have that feel-good feeling and go from there.
How much value is there in having a young coach that has that experience of what a Stanley Cup champion looks like?
I think the biggest thing was when he took over, he had a clear plan, a clear understanding of how he wanted us to play. I think having been here through the beginning of the season, he saw firsthand what he wanted to change, I guess, and the little details that he wanted to implement. I think at that time, we were extremely receptive. We needed to get out of that funk and he runs a calm and good bench. He really set the tone for us and then from there, the rest of the group just kind of grabbed that ball and kept pushing it forward.
Are you tired of going through so much rehabbing?
Yeah, this one's fine. It'll heal in a couple weeks. (No surgery required)
How nice is it to talk about this group when 95 percent of it will be back next year, if not all of it?
Yeah, we'll follow this Vegas draft and see what happens. Obviously that's something we'll keep an eye on later in the summer, but we'll be getting guys back. 'Fabs' will be back at some point, hopefully the beginning, the sooner the better. It's a great group and we're extremely hungry. Like I said, it's tough to swallow when you feel like you had a really good team and your goaltender's as good as 'Jakey' and he gets hot on top of that. I have a lot of optimism going into next season and I'm extremely excited.
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