NEW YORK — Before Artemi Panarin was the Russian Patrick Kane, Teuvo Teravainen was the Finnish Patrick Kane.
And while Panarin has lit up the NHL this season — including a hat trick that propelled the Blackhawks to a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night — Teravainen’s development has been more gradual, and perhaps less satisfying.
Teravainen has just 10 goals this season. And given his billing as a first-round pick and his breakout performance in last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs, that’s probably a little less than what many expected out of him in his sophomore campaign. And it might have something to do with why the 21-year-old’s name is popping up every now and then in trade speculation as the Hawks seek a top-line left wing to play alongside Jonathan Toews.
Well, Wednesday’s win was another example of how foolish such a move would be.
Teravainen was overshadowed again by the flashy, dynamic and dazzling Panarin, who scored two power-play goals — the Hawks are a staggering 7-of-11 with the man-advantage in their last two games — and added an empty-netter to seal the victory. But without Teravainen setting up two Hawks goals with brilliant passes, Panarin wouldn’t have gotten the chance to be the hero.
Toews credited Teravainen’s goal late in the Hawks’ 7-2 shellacking of Toronto on Monday with giving him a desperately needed shot of confidence.
“Hopefully, the confidence he has right now is something he can build on and continue, because we know what type of player he can really be offensively,” Toews said.
Teravainen now has 15 assists to go with his 10 goals — respectable, if not overwhelming. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Thanks to a logjam of star players ahead of him at both center and right wing, Teravainen has been slotted on the third line alongside grinders Andrew Desjardins and Phil Danault. And to his credit — and to Joel Quenneville’s delight — he has been rock-solid defensively in that role, while serving as a utility man, able to fill in almost any role, both 5-on-5 and on special teams.
“We’re pretty responsible [as a line] out there, but for myself, I want to score and make things happen, too,” Teravainen said. “That’s why I’ve been a little down on myself lately, because we hadn’t scored that much. But this was a good game.”
And it was a reminder that the offensive talent is there, and that the goals can’t be too far behind. Yes, the championship window is open right now, and it’s always tempting to trade potential for immediate help (Andrew Ladd, anyone?). But the way the Hawks are built, the championship window is open for another five years, too, and Teravainen is sure to play a big role in the years ahead.
“He played very well tonight,” Quenneville said. “I thought he was good in all aspects of our game. He can make another line go for us, and I think that’s what we’re looking for.”
As for Panarin, it was just more of the same consistent brilliance he’s shown all season. After Teravainen set up Andrew Desjardins’ first-period goal, Panarin ripped a shot past Henrik Lundqvist from the top of the left circle on the power play for his 20th goal.
The Hawks squandered the lead, with the Rangers scoring twice on a Vinnie Hinostroza high-sticking double-minor to take a 3-2 lead early in the third. But Teravainen’s deft feed teed up Andrew Shaw’s equalizer midway through the period, and Panarin crashed the net for a power-play goal with three minutes left in the game to win it, before adding an empty-netter to seal it.
“Bread Man has been great for us this year,” Toews said of Panarin. “He can go out there and make things happen every single shift. You saw that again tonight. Not a lot of games we go through without some pretty big contributions from that line.”
The same can’t be said of Teravainen, at least, not offensively, and not yet. But it’s coming. And at just 21 — three years younger than Panarin — the Hawks would be wise to label the Finn untouchable at the trade deadline.
“I realize that if I want to play here, I have to play good both ways,” Teravainen said. “[But] I know when I get some time and space, I can make some plays, too.”