By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The door opened inside the bowels of the United Center on Sunday, and in walked Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, ready to meet the overflow media herd.
Behind the two franchise faces followed Teuvo Teravainen, the Blackhawks’ 20-year-old rookie forward. His face isn’t that of the franchise, but rather the home for a failed attempt at a playoff beard, a thin mustache. Still, Teravainen has proved to be worthy in the company of Chicago’s championship core.
Of course, then came a question for Teravainen, giving Kane and Toews a break from the microphone.
“I guess it’s my turn, because these guys have been talking all the time,” Teravainen joked.
Teravainen joked after Game 1 that he was regretful of scoring because he would have to face the media. The soft-spoken rookie would prefer keeping to himself, but his play is too loud to be ignored.
Truth be told, the star of Teravainen is just beginning to rise. Need more evidence? Only one reporter pronounced his name right during the press conference, asking questions about his stellar play. He’s got ways to go before becoming a household name, but his four goals and five assists this postseason has earned notoriety.
In Game 1, Teravainen tied the score with a nifty dish past Tampa Bay netminder Ben Bishop. Then, in Game 2 on Saturday, he put one top shelf, just out of the reach of Bishop’s glove. He’s just the fifth rookie sine 1927 to score in each of his first two Stanley Cup Final games.
“Every chance he’s getting, he’s making big plays,” Toews said of Teravainen. “He’s doing it in the Stanley Cup Final. It’s pretty amazing to watch.”
What does Teravainen think of that high praise from the Captain?
“Actually, I didn’t listen,” he joked. “Too many great words.”
Perhaps Teravainen is gaining comfort with the media, too. It took time for the Finland native to adjust to the American ice, which is significantly smaller and offers less room to roam.
What makes Teravainen such a gifted player is his ability to create scoring chances with his speed and skill. First, he needed to adjust to doing that on the NHL ice. Early on, he seemed out of place among bigger, stronger players who bumped him off the puck with relative ease.
Teravainen is so gifted with the puck because he’s precise with movement, careful with decisions and able to pinpoint a shot or pass where it needs to go. His goal in Game 1 seemed to the untrained eye to be a fortunate shot, but he used tremendous vision to find an opening and beat Bishop. The same could be said for his tally in Game 2.
No longer the quiet rookie, Teravainen has captured the respect of his veteran teammates.
“He’s a great player with a bright future ahead of him,” Blackhawks defenseman Kyle Cumiskey said.
Added Toews: “‘Turbo’ just keeps on getting better and better.”
During these playoffs, Teravainen has been a healthy scratch in five games, each one a perplexing decision from coach Joel Quenneville as he mistakenly trusted veterans over the talented rookie. But Teravainen forced his way into the lineup — joining center Antoine Vermette and winger Patrick Sharp on the third line — with his terrific play.
Now, Quenneville has no choice but to play Teravianen. In fact, he’s working on the Blackhawks’ power play, too.
Toward the end of the media session, as Teravainen battled through his dreaded camera time, he was asked about the next crop of NHL talents, set to visit the United Center on Monday. In attendance will be Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin and others, soon to be selected at the top of the draft. Just three years ago, it was Teravainen getting drafted by the Blackhawks.
“It’s great for them to come see the best hockey in the world right now, the Stanley Cup Final,” Tervainen said. “For them — keep dreaming, keep working hard.”
Funny to hear this from the youngest player in this Stanley Cup Final. Teravainen’s a guy who wouldn’t be recognized throughout much of Chicago, can’t legally drink in a potential championship celebration and is just beginning a promising NHL career.
Teravainen is a rising star worthy of his place in the Blackhawks’ core. He could join the likes of Kane and Toews in more than just press conferences.
An incredibly promising hockey career is taking flight on the game’s biggest stage.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.