Alexander Steen spent part of his summer touring a distillery and learning to make whiskey. He has a batch aging, as we speak.
The transformation of raw distilled spirits takes time. It requires a complex collaboration between physics, chemistry, biology and geometry. It will be several years before Steen’s signature brand is mature enough to enjoy.

The science surrounding Steen seems to happen much quicker. This season of his career was interrupted on Dec. 21 when the 29-year-old Blues forward left a game against Edmonton with concussion symptoms. He missed the next 11 starts, crimping a pace that had him among the league leaders in goals and points.

When he returned on Jan. 18 against Anaheim, Steen played nearly 21 minutes and went scoreless. Even a Steen machine needs to warm up. Since that night, Steen has three goals and seven points in five games. He has picked up exactly where he left off.

Well, not exactly. It’s complex.

“To be honest, I’m expecting more of myself,” Steen said. “I think there’s a few notches left to get to where I was. I’m trying (but) I still feel like there’s a couple of more notches in my game.”

As he is wont to do, Ken Hitchcock puts it a different way. The articulate Blues coach speaks less of notches and more of symmetry.

“He is a very dynamic player,” Hitchcock said. “For him to get to the elite level where he was before, I think he just has to learn to get back to the right balance between reward and risk.”

Golfers know something about risk-reward. The are correlative properties. That is, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward, and vice-versa.

Phil Mickelson is a living library on the subject. In 2010, he won a Masters by risking a 6-iron between the trees off the 13th fairway. His shot came to rest four feet from the hole and he captured a green jacket. In 2006, he needed a par on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open to win. But he hit a driver off the tee, then tried to cut a 3-iron around a tree. The risks were ill-chosen and he lost the championship.

“I just can’t believe that I did that,” Mickelson said at the time. “I am such an idiot.”

Idiotic moments happen in sports, though they are usually a bit more subtle. In hockey, they materialize in opportunities, for or against. They lead to a series of events that often lead to the back of a net, at one end of the ice or the other.