The Blackhawks enter the 2015 playoffs with a number of unknowns: Will Patrick Kane return as Patrick Kane? Can Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp regain their scoring touch? Do Michal Rozsival and/or Kimmo Timonen have one more solid playoff in them?
The there’s the Teuvo factor. What kind of impact will 20-year-old Teuvo Teravainen have in his first NHL playoff experience? The possibilities are exciting — Teravainen has made almost game-to-game progress in the second half of the season that appears more noticeable, if not quantifiable, with each shift. His confidence is palpable.
“I’ve had some ups and down this year. But overall, I think I’m getting better all the time — that’s the key thing,” Teravainen said. “I just need to be patient and improve my game. I know I’m going to get there. It’s just going to take some time. And now I’m here, so I’m happy about it.”
Like most players of his ilk, Teravainen says he lives for playoff hockey. But Stanley Cup playoff hockey is a particularly different animal, so it remains to be seen how Teravainen responds to the moment. The odds of him becoming a breakout star in the postseason probably are not great. But the possibilities are intriguing.
“I think it’s good for me,” Teravainen said when asked about his game at this stage of development in a playoff situation. “I always like to play in the playoffs. It’s the most important games of the year. I just enjoy this time of hockey.
“Of course, it’s new for me. I’m a young player in my first NHL playoffs. But I’ve been playing the playoffs in Finland, too. Of course, it’s a little different, but I know a little bit [about it] and what’s going on here. This is my favorite time of year. It’s all about winning. I like it.”
Teravainen scored four goals and nine points and was a plus-4 in 34 games this season. He was a plus-6 in the Hawks’ final six games (one goal, one assist).
“I don’t like forecasting. He’ll tell us a little along the way how he’s handling it [with] his performance,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “There’s not a lot of time, not a lot of space. You have to fight for it — whether it’s net presence, loose-puck areas.”
Teravainen obviously has NHL-caliber game. His ability to adjust and learn well likely will determine his impact.
“His awareness with the puck is high end,” Quenneville said. “But I think he’ll get a quick feel off the bat [for] the intensity and importance. He’s played some really big games in his career at a young age and I think that’ll help him start the playoffs.”
Teravainen is excited for the opportunity.
“I think I’ve had a good year. I didn’t start that [well], but I got better all the time,” he said. “Right now I’m feeling good. I’m just going to try to lay my game. I know it’s the playoffs. It’s going to be a tight game, so I need to play really smart and play good defense. But when I get the chance, I’ll try to make some plays and [provide] some offense.”
But even Teravainen admits he doesn’t know a lot about the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“If you win, you win a nice Cup. I think it’s heavy, too. That’s all I know,” he said with a smile. “It’s always been my dream to play in the playoffs. I think we have a great team, so I’m really looking forward to it.”