Corey Crawford, Teuvo Teravainen, and Antoine Vermette all have something in common. Each of them were benched at some point during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, and have responded by proving to be three of the most valuable pieces on the Blackhawks as the postseason has gotten deeper.
Crawford, who was temporarily replaced by Scott Darling in the first round, has faced plenty of adversity throughout his career, but perhaps none more challenging that this year's playoffs. The Blackhawks netminder lost his net, regained it, and hasn't looked back, silencing his critics the way he often does when the game's matter most.
"He's been really good in this series," said coach Joel Quenneville following a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5.
Teravainen, who was a healthy scratch as recently as Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, found himself fighting for a roster spot during the regular season and has since evolved from a secret weapon to a dangerous one.
After scoring the game-tying goal and assisting on the game-winner, Teravainen became the first rookie to register two third-period points in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. He followed that up by potting another one in Game 2, becoming the fifth rookie since 1927 to score a goal in each of the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.
“We’re fortunate he’s been in some big stages and settings in the past," Quenneville said after Teravainen's breakout game in Game 1. "He seems to do well in those situations."
And as if the Blackhawks' most important trade deadline acquisition wasn't making his presence felt already, Vermette is reassuring that the first-round pick and prospect general manager Stan Bowman gave up for him was worth it after recording his third game-winning goal of the postseason on Saturday night.
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The Blackhawks center struggled to find his role — at one point, was moved to wing — in Chicago, but never got discouraged. He used each opportunity as a chance to positively contribute in a way he hadn't been used to.
“It’s tough," forward Kris Versteeg, who'd been a healthy scratch in 10 of the Blackhawks' 17 games in the first three rounds, said on staying mentally prepared. "Vermy was a top guy in Phoenix. He played top minutes. And when you come here it’s an adjustment. Obviously your minutes are gonna be cut down, and you’ve got to adjust to the system and adjust to a different playing style and the different minutes you’re playing. He’s done a great job here, especially of late."
Experience is the main reason the resilient Blackhawks feel they can win any game and any series, no matter the circumstance. But credit their mental toughness for sacrificing the individual spotlight for team victories, especially those who don't get as much recognition in the first place.