Teuvo Teravainen was critical of his first two games.
He spent a majority of both on the Blackhawks’ top line, playing left with with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. But Teravainen just wasn’t his usual puck-possessive self. Game 3, however, he was back at center on the third line. And in that game, a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders, Teravainen looked more like the guy from late in the postseason.
“Yeah, I felt a little better,” he said. “Maybe I get pucks more and get my game going a little bit more. I felt better. I’m not that happy how I started the first couple of games so I try to improve my game.”
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Teravainen was much improved on Saturday because he played his game. The wing-turned-center-turned-wing-turned-center again was skating with more confidence. He was holding the puck more, practicing patience, making passes at the right time and shooting more. His latest outing showed more of what the Blackhawks want from him.
“He was better the last game when he did go to center,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Him with the puck is his strength. He can find it more and keep it more.”
Teravainen could be that guy with Toews and Hossa, too. But in his first game plus with the duo, Teravainen was more focused on getting it to his two veteran line mates more than keeping it for himself and playing his game.
“Yeah, maybe I was thinking a little too much,” said Teravainen. “I just have to be myself and don’t try to make too many plays. I have to hold onto the puck more and be myself more.”
Toews said he talked with Teravainen about holding onto the puck more – “I was jokingly, but mostly serious, [telling] him, like, ‘No, you’re the guy on the line. You want the puck.’”
Teravainen played that way during the Stanley Cup finals with two other veterans, Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette. Sure, he was on the wing with that line, but he was still effective on both sides of the puck and not afraid to hold onto it.
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Now centering the third line again – with Bryan Bickell and Viktor Tikhonov – Teravainen is returning to his game.
“He’s very skilled. He has a lot of patience and makes a lot of moves, like that one [pass] he gave me for the one-timer that I missed the net, where I lost some sleep from,” Bickell said of his scoring chance from Teravainen. “You expect the puck when you don’t expect the puck, because he’s going to make plays out of nothing. He has a lot of vision, a lot of poise. He has a good shot. I always tell him to shoot more, and he creates havoc thatway, too.”
The bottom line is Teravainen is at his best when he has the puck more. He could get a chance on that top line again and if he does, he’ll probably play his style more. But for now, Teravainen at center gives the Blackhawks a little more balance on their lines. It also gives him more confidence to play his game.
“I think I’m feeling good with any position I’m playing and any guy I play with, too. I just have to be myself, be around the puck, skate a lot and be active,” he said. “I think I’m getting better.”