First, Trevor van Riemsdyk lost the puck. Then he lost his man. As a result, the Blackhawks lost the lead. For a rookie making just his second playoff appearance, in just his second game since Nov. 16, in the Stanley Cup Final, it could have been a crushing moment.
But van Riemdsyk isn’t your typical rookie. It’s one of the many reasons Joel Quenneville has been so high on him since he burst onto the scene in training camp.
“I think he’s played very well,” Quenneville said. “It was one shift he got stuck out there. It’s happened to us in second periods against a lot of teams this year. You can’t get off. You’re dead tired. Hopefully, you get a whistle or a save or a clear. Sometimes it goes in. But positionally, we like the way he thinks the game. He’s got a good stick. Offensively, he makes a lot of nice, simple plays. He’s got a good gap. He’s everything you look for in a defenseman.”
Van Riemsdyk paid the price for his mistake — he didn’t play again for the rest of the second period, a nearly 10-minute span. But he got three shifts in the third period —Quenneville leaned heavily on his top guys in a tight and frantic finish — and acquitted himself fine.
“It’s important, especially during the game, to have a short-term memory,” van Riemsdyk said. “Some shifts just aren’t going to go your way. The puck’s not going to bounce the right way. You’ve got to learn from what you did there, what mistakes you made, and just try to bounce back from it. Having guys like [veterans Kimmo Timonen and Jonathan Toews] in the locker room to keep your confidence up, just telling you to move on, keep it going — that definitely helps to hear that from them. You can’t let the one mistake compound and lead to another that leads to another. As tough as it can be sometimes, just shake it off, come out the next shift, make a good play, get right back into it.”
It’s easy to forget that Brandon Saad is just 22 years old. Between his size, his strength, his savvy, his beard and and his experience — this is already his 11th full playoff series —he already seems like a veteran. Which made it all the more painful for Toews to hear that the Pittsburgh native grew up watching contemporaries Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“It’s just funny to think,” Toews said. “We all call him the man-child. We’re under the assumption he’s in his mid-30s now. It’s funny to hear him talk about growing up watching Crosby and Malkin. That catches you off-guard a little bit.”
Saad no longer feels like a young guy in the league, either. He had one goal in the 2013 playoffs, six in the 2014 playoffs, and has eight so far in the 2015 playoffs.
“I think every year I feel more comfortable and confident,” he said. “Obviously, starting off the first year with a bang, able to win the Cup, surrounded by a bunch of talented guys and veterans that know what they’re going, it helps. Having success always helps.”
Timonen, making his debut in this year’s Final, nearly had the game-winner himself in Game 4, but his third-period shot hit the crossbar, setting the stage for Saad to be the hero.
“I wished that went in,” Timonen said. “I guess in life you can’t get everything. Still living the dream here.”