Teuvo Teravainen is just getting started.
In the first two games of the Blackhawks’ second-round series against the Minnesota Wild, the 20-year-old rookie provided disparate examples of his knack for making plays — a fortuitous goal in Game 1 on a seemingly harmless shot from the boards that somehow fooled Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk; and an innate, back-to-the-play pass off the boards, a carom he executed with the precision of a pool hustler, that set up Patrick Sharp for a goal in Game 2.
The two plays had one thing in common — great timing. Teravainen’s goal in Game 1 broke a 3-3 tie and ended up being the difference in a 4-3 victory; the Sharp goal was a back-breaker in the third period that gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
It’s not overstating it to say that Teravainen is improving almost every time he steps on the ice. Even Hawks coach Joel Quenneville seems to realize his decision to bench Teravainen for the final four games of the Nashville series could look like a mistake by the end of this Stanley Cup run — because Teravainen seems to be getting the hang of playoff hockey.
“I liked his progress in the first two games [of the Wild series,” Quenneville said. “I liked his progress in the two games of the last series [against the Predators]. He had a good first couple of games, probably didn’t deserve to come out — but we had to make some decisions.
“His development, over the course of the season, where he started [to] where he is — we’re happy with how he played in a big situation.”
Teravainen has the one goal and three points in four games in his first Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I feel better every game I play,” Teravainen said. “Whenever I get a chance, I try my best out there. I just feel good right now.”
After spending much of the season between Chicago and Rockford, in and out of the lineup with the Hawks, Teravainen has developed a comfort level with Sharp and Antoine Vermette on the third line. He opened the playoffs on the fourth with Marcus Kruger and Joakim Nordstrom.
“They help me out a lot,” Teravainen said of Sharp and Vermette. “They have a lot of experience and they’re like the older guys, so I think it’s worked fine. We have pretty good chemistry out there.”