It has been an up and down season for Chicago Blackhawks forward Teuvo Teravainen. The 20-year-old Finnish winger entered the 2014-15 season as one of the Blackhawks highly-regarded prospects, very close to cracking the NHL roster.
It wasn’t until the calender turned to 2015 that Teravainen got a chance to make his impact. In 39 games with the Blackhawks AHL affiliate Rockford, Teravainen had 25 points (6 goals and 19 assists). The games were viewed as tune-ups for the young Finn to get acclimated to the NHL game and once he proved to be ready, his time would arrive.
It did, on January 4th. Teravainen was called up. He was given the chance to play. Everyone viewed him as a top six forward, and using him on the bottom six would be a waste of his talent. After a Feburary 9th game, Teravainen was sent back to Rockford.
It wouldn’t be long before Teravainen would be back. A Patrick Kane injury opened the door for Teravainen to have a chance on the top-six. He saw his ice-time increase, along with the quality of his line-mates. Both of those brought forth the Teravainen that fans and bloggers longed for.
Patrick Kane returned for game one of the Nashville series, and Teravainen found himself out of the lineup once again. Another down in a long season for the youngster. He kept chugging along and practicing hard and got back into games five and six of the Nashville series. Since finding his way back into the lineup, Teravainen’s play has picked up and has left Kris Versteeg watching from the press box.
Combined with Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette on the Blackhawks third line, Teravainen has become a force and even scored a game winning goal in game one against the Wild.
Teravainen brings a special component that Versteeg can no longer bring on a regular basis: play-making. In his peak years, Versteeg could make a good pass and create the space for his scoring partners. Now, at age 28, he has lost a step and can’t bring that aspect of his game each and every night. Teravainen has the pure play-making skill that maybe only Patrick Kane can match on this team. He has been setting up his two teammates with fantastic scoring opportunities, and even showing a scoring knack of his own.
Versteeg does have his place on the Blackhawks roster, as a pesky fourth line player who can contribute a goal or two. If the Hawks’ coaching staff wants to get Versteeg back in the lineup, that would be the place to do it. Although, some would argue to not break up the chemistry that the Hawks’ current fourth line has. The last thing that should happen is Versteeg replacing Teravainen on the third line.
Teravainen brings a speed element to that line, adding to the forechecking abilities of both Sharp and Vermette; giving the Hawks’ another quality line that can score, forecheck and play good in their own zone. And that is the big knock on the Finn’s game: his defense. But so far in the six postseason games he has played, he has been sound in his own zone and in the neutral zone; so much so that he has made some key defensive plays that have led to Hawks’ goals at the other end of the ice.
The third line has been arguably the best line the Hawks’ have rolled out in the postseason, providing another line that opposing teams need to solve and try to neutralize. Sharp, Vermette and Teravainen together have made a huge difference in the postseason.
Teuvo Teravainen has played a huge role in all of it, because of his speed and play-making ability. He deserves to continue to play, while Kris Versteeg stays in the press box.