TAMPA, Fla. — Kimmo Timonen’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a bittersweet one.
This is why he came back to the game, why he worked so hard to overcome blood-clot issues last summer and play once more for a shot at the Cup. But as of now, the Blackhawks defenseman is not playing. He was a healthy scratch in the last two games against the Anaheim Ducks and looks to be the same when the Blackhawks face the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
As disappointed as he is, Timonen said he puts the emotions aside and waits for a chance to play again.
“To be honest, it’s been a long process to get to this point,” Timonen said. “Am I frustrated? Kind of surprised? Mad? Yeah. But this is not about me. This is about the team and winning the Stanley Cup and I’m going to do everything I can to help this team moving forward.”
Timonen played limited minutes in his 19 regular-season games with the Blackhawks. That didn’t change in the postseason despite Michal Rozsival going down with a fractured left ankle. Coach Joel Quenneville, as expected, leaned heavily on his top-four defensemen. Timonen’s highest ice time came in the Blackhawks’ triple-overtime Game 2 victory over Anaheim, and even that was just 16 minutes, 45 seconds; his lowest was 5:15 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. Perhaps age and last summer’s health issues caught up with the 40-year-old Timonen, but his play, and lack of it, was frustrating.
“I knew coming in, these four are going to play a lot and they’ve been playing really well. I was hoping to play better but it just didn’t happen. I was hoping to be 10 years younger but that didn’t happen, either,” Timonen said with a laugh. “I don’t want to look back. Maybe when the season’s over I’ll talk more about it but right now I’m focused on this team and helping any way I can.”
Timonen’s trip to the Cup hasn’t turned out exactly as he planned it. He’s here, but he’s not playing and he struggled when he did. Still, the defenseman will prepare as he always does and if he gets the call again, he’ll be ready.
“I could show up and be mad, be whiny and that kind of thing, but I won’t do that,” he said. “Would I like to be playing? Sure. Anyone would say that. I just want to stay positive, stay loose and if I get back into the lineup, I’m happy to do that.”
- Trevor van Riemsdyk practiced with the Blackhawks on Tuesday but, based on defensive pairings in drills, it doesn’t look like he’ll play in Game 1 on Wednesday night. The top three pairs were the same on Tuesday as they were Games 6 and 7 against Anaheim: Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson, Kyle Cumiskey-Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya-David Rundblad.
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- Cumiskey was nervous when he made his 2015 postseason debut in the Western Conference Final. But that experience, he said, if he ends up playing against the Lightning. “I’m definitely glad I got to play the series before,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be nervous when I first step on the ice but hopefully I’ll calm down.”
- Crawford got a big smile on his face when talking about Tampa Bay goaltending coach Frantz Jean, who guided Crawford when the Blackhawks goaltender played with the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL). “Frantz was great in Moncton,” Crawford said. “It was a stepping stone for me as a goalie and as a person, going into pro hockey. I spent a few great years with him. I really learned a lot and I’m happy to see him here and be playing against him.”