NASHVILLE — Bryan Bickell has noticed the changes in Teuvo Teravainen’s confidence level, especially on the ice.
Gone is that kid who seemed hesitant or unconfident, characteristics that aren’t surprising for a then 19-year-old who was adjusting to so many different things, on and off the ice, at once.
“He’s more patient with the puck. Before, it didn’t seem like he wanted the puck but now it seems it’s finding him. He’s finding ways to get open,” Bickell said. “If I had the puck in situations I’d just try to dump it in but he has poise and patience with it and that’s what we need from him.”
Teravainen’s handled his first postseason experience with poise, too, assisting on Niklas Hjalmarsson’s goal in Game 1 against the Nashville Predators. The 20-year-old Finn has been part of the Blackhawks’ fourth line for some time now, giving that group more of a scoring threat. His defense has been just as good, as he continues to mature into a strong NHL player.
Entering his first postseason, Teravainen said he wasn’t planning on changing a thing.
“It’s just playing smart. You can’t turn the puck over; you just have to know what you’re doing out there,” he said. “Maybe sometimes, don’t take too many risks and play smart defense. But when I get the chance, I’ll try to make some offense and play to my strengths.”
Coach Joel Quenneville was very happy with Teravainen’s postseason debut.
“His patience was out there against top lines a lot of the night, a lot of defensive zone starts, key face-offs. I just thought he had a real nice game,” Quenneville said. “He’ll get a little more comfortable with the puck moving forward. Everything happens so fast, it gets hectic out there. It gets more predictable with time and that only enhances his strength.”
Teravainen was sent back to Rockford earlier this season because the Blackawks saw him as a top-nine forward, and at the time there was no spot for him on those first three lines. So now he’s on the fourth line. He’ll certainly move up in time, be it this postseason or next year. But this has worked so why not stick with it?
General manager Stan Bowman said it speaks highly of Teravainen’s abilities to take on this role.
“He’s only 20 years old now, but he has the ability as a young player to have the trust of the coaches in defensive situations,” Bowman said. “It’s unusual for a player of his talent to be trusted at a young age to play a role on more of a checking line. But he’s got the ability to make plays and bring offense from that role and he also gives you the play-making.”
Teravainen has handled every step of his NHL learning curve well. That includes the big stage that he’s on now.
“His progression has been exciting to see, it’s just the tip of the iceberg for him,” Bowman said. “We’re excited for him to get playoff exposure and he looks more confident with each game he plays.”