Teuvo Teravainen sat two chairs away as Jonathan Toews praised the young forward for what he’s done this postseason.
So how did all the compliments make Teravainen feel?
“Actually I didn’t listen. Too many great words,” Teravainen said to laughs.
If you look at Teravainen from the start of this season to now, the transformation has been something else. Off the ice he’s gone from a quiet, reserved talker who now brings humor to every press conference. On the ice he’s gone from hesitant shooter to constant scoring threat; he’s a recent addition to the Blackhawks’ power play, and he scored on it in Game 2.
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As Kyle Cumiskey, who played with Teravainen in Rockford earlier this season, recognized, Teravainen is “opening up a bit.” What’s so different with Teravainen now? He has more experience, for sure, but he definitely has more confidence. He’s more confident with his English – we’re guessing his good friend and fellow Finn Antti Raanta, who also knows how to crack up a room, helped. He’s more confident with his shot, which he wasn’t displaying enough when he first started. And that shot has worked plenty lately: Teravainen has three goals in his last five games, including goals in Games 1 and 2 against the Lightning.
“He just keeps getting better and better as he gets more responsibility,” Toews said. “It hasn't been easy, I don't imagine, given the fact that he knows what he can do at this level. He has to come in and play behind a lot of guys who have a track record and are going to get the offensive opportunities more often than not.”
Teravainen has been considered a top-six talent since he joined the Blackhawks this season, and that’s part of the reason he wasn’t up early: there was no room for him in the top six. But he’s been a great addition to the third line with Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette, and he assisted on Vermette’s winning goal in Game 1.
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The transition has been pretty smooth on the power play, too. Teravainen took a Marian Hossa pass, cut in and scored on a second-period advantage on Saturday.
“Being able to see what he can do in the playoffs, he's fearless out there,” Brent Seabrook said. “He has the ability to make plays. Like [Cumiskey] said, he's opening up a little bit more and having some fun. It's good to see.”
Why did Teravainen click so quickly on the power play? Is it that confidence he’s gained throughout the season or do skill players simply adjust quickly to every new challenge?
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“He can see plays, makes plays. You like his patience level when he does have the puck. I think he did settle it down in a couple tight situations, nice give-and-go feed,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think he's starting to think shot, which is really going to enhance his game and his scoring as well. I think offensively he'sgetting a little bit more comfortable with the puck. I think off of that, it should enhance his game.”
Teravainen’s confidence is coming through, from his words to his ways on the ice. He may not catch all the compliments his teammates pay him but he’s been connecting on pretty much everything else.
“Every chance he's getting, he's making big plays,” Toews said. “He's already doing it in the Stanley Cup Final, so it's pretty amazing to watch.”