Chicago Blackhawks: Teuvo Teravainen
Here are some thoughts on the Chicago Blackhawks following their 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday:
1. Two consecutive wins heading into the All-Star break were certainly a positive for the Blackhawks, but it didn’t mean they were completely back on track. Something is still off defensively with this team. Wednesday’s game marked the eighth time in the last 14 games where they allowed three or more goals. That happened just 11 times in the first 34 games. They have a goal differential of minus-3 in the last 14 games compared to their plus-42 in the first 34 games. Some of the blame could be placed on goaltender Corey Crawford during the early stages of this slump, but he’s been pretty good lately. This has more to do with the defense of the forwards and defensemen. The penalty kill also hasn’t been perfect lately and has given up 11 goals in the last 14 games. It was unrealistic for the penalty kill to continue at the rate it had been going.
2. Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya struggled again on Wednesday. He was on the ice for two even-strength goals. He has the worst plus/minus rating among the team’s defensemen at minus-6. He’s a minus-9 over their 14-game slide. He’s been on the ice for six goals for and 15 goals against in 5-on-5 play in the last 14 games.
3. The line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa was proven to be human again. The line had one of its worst games of the season against the Kings, who matched the Blackhawks' top line up with Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik. Hossa had his worst possession of the game and was at a minus-12 Corsi. Toews was at minus-8 and Saad was at minus-7. The line was also scored on twice.
4. Could playing David Rundblad more help the Blackhawks? Before you jump to an answer, read on. While the Blackhawks have had issues allowing goals, Rundblad hasn’t been factoring into that. He’s actually been helping them. The Blackhawks have been outscored 29-31 in 5-on-5 play over the last 14 games. Rundblad has a plus-7 goal differential during that span. He’s been on the ice for 10 goals-for and three goals-against. He has two goals and four assists in that span. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has shown more trust in Rundblad than he once did, but the complete trust still isn’t there. Rundblad is still playing the least amount of ice time among the defensemen. He played 10:50 against the Kings on Wednesday and is averaging 11:55 for the season.
5. The Blackhawks don’t count on the fourth line for production, but the occasional goal would certainly be welcomed by the team. Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, the most consistent fourth-line players, haven’t contributed much offensive as of late. Kruger doesn’t have a point in the last 15 games. He’s been on the ice for one goal for and six goals against and has a minus-33 Corsi in the last 14 games. Smith has one point in the last 15 games. He has been on the ice for two goals for and four goals against in the last 14 games. Neither have put up large numbers in the past, but their production is down from a season ago. Kruger has 12 points in 48 games this season and had 28 points in 81 games last season. Smith has nine points in 48 games this season and had 26 points in 75 games last season.
6. Teuvo Teravainen continued to make a difference on Wednesday. He had the primary assist on Andrew Shaw's goal and has two goals, two assists and is a plus-2 in the last four games. He played a team-low 8:58 against the Kings.
Each of his scoring chances over the previous three games seemed to get closer and closer to going inside the net. Teravainen finally broke through for his first NHL goal and point when he struck a loose puck in the slot past Winnipeg Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson in Friday's third period.
Teravainen was disappointed the Blackhawks lost in the end, but his goal is certainly a moment he won’t forget. He cut the Jets' lead to one with 7 minutes, 17 seconds remaining, and the sold-out United Center was in full celebration mode.
“It’s a nice feeling, of course, first goal,” Teravainen said. “I’ve been waiting for that. I think I had some chances last games. Right now I get it, so it’s good.”
Teravainen’s teammates could sense the goal was coming -- and he'd been close, with four shots on net Friday before he lit the lamp.
“He was around the puck a lot tonight and had a lot of good scoring chances,” Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell said. “I knew eventually one of those pucks are going to go in. It was nice to see him score that one, get some confidence. He’s a great player. He’s got a lot of offensive ability. We need him.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has seen Teravainen progress over his five games since being called up from AHL Rockford. Quenneville said he expects another step forward after the Finn got that first goal under his belt.
“He had some chances tonight,” Quenneville said. “I think three games in a row he had some good quality stuff and he had the puck in some areas. Nice to see him get the first one there. I think he’ll be better and more comfortable in the scoring as well.”
Sharp, an 11-year NHL veteran, will answer whatever questions the 20-year-old Teravainen may have for him, but Sharp has been around long enough to know there’s little Teravainen needs from him. There’s just one simple message Sharp tries to pass on.
“The only thing I ever tell him is to play on instincts,” said Sharp, who was given the same advice from Jeremy Roenick and John LeClair as a young player. “He’s the type of player he is. He’s here for a reason. There’s no reason for him to listen to me or anybody else at this point unless it’s the coaching staff. Just play on instincts, usually he has the right ones.”
1. The Blackhawks have been playing some of their worst hockey of the season over the last three weeks. While they dropped more games during a span in late October-early November, their play wasn’t fluctuating as much as it is now. Of their nine regulation losses prior to Dec. 23, only two of them were by more than one goal. In their last eight games, they have lost three games by two-plus goals. They’re 4-4-0 in that stretch, and they weren’t exactly impressive in wins over the Nashville Predators (overcame a 3-0 deficit), Dallas Stars (trailed four different times) and Minnesota Wild (outshot 44-20). On Friday, the Edmonton Oilers, the worst team in the league, outplayed them. The Blackhawks were in their second game of back-to-back road games, but their performance appeared to have to do more with their recent play than anything else.
The Blackhawks have been allowing more goals in the last three weeks. They have been outscored 19-13 at even strength over the last eight games. First periods have also been a problem for them. They have been outscored 16-7 in the first period during that span. They have outscored their opponents 15-13 in the second and third periods. Possession and creating chances were problems for the Blackhawks the last two games. They had a combined 41 shots on goal against the Wild and Oilers. It was their lowest back-to-back total this season. They were also a minus-16 Corsi in close situations (game tied or within a goal) in those two games.
2. Teuvo Teravainen had his best NHL game on Friday. His vision and ability to create for others is just at a level very few players possess. That could be seen Friday with something as simple as chipping the puck through the neutral zone to lead Patrick Sharp into an open area in the offensive zone or firing off a quick pass from the right circle to Andrew Shaw at the doorstep of the net. You could tell as the game went on Sharp was also building trust for Teravainen and was getting him to the puck. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also showed a lot of trust in him as he played 14:42 overall and 5:52 in the third period.
3. Brandon Saad is off to a strong January. He has four goals in five games in the month. He’s especially been effective at finishing around the net as of late. He’s only once had more than four goals in a month. He had seven goals during November of last season. He has 12 goals this season and is on pace to break his career-highs of 19 goals and 47 points.
4. It doesn’t appear as if the Chicago Blackhawks or Columbus Blue Jackets are benefitting from the Jeremy Morin-for-Tim Erixon trade after nearly a month. Morin has one goal, one assist and is plus/minus-0 after 10 games. He’s been getting 10-plus minutes most games, but was recently kept to 5:20 after being on the ice for two goals against the Dallas Stars. Erixon is a plus-2 in five games for the Blackhawks. He has been a healthy scratch the last five games.
1. Was surprised to see the first reader comment on last night’s story was how Corey Crawford was being let off for his role in the Blackhawks allowing two goals in the first 1:17 of the game. Just wrote about this the other day. Crawford hasn’t been at the same level since returning from injury. His numbers have dropped. He’s not reacting as quickly and his rebound control has been a bit off. It is easy to blame the goaltender, and some people seem to like to do that more often than not with Crawford.
Again, Crawford hasn’t been phenomenal in recent weeks, but Tuesday’s loss wasn’t on him. There were two defensive breakdowns on consecutive shifts, and that’s what led to the goals. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson didn’t play either situation that well and there wasn’t much forward help on both plays, and it cost them. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s frustration with how those two plays unfolded was very noticeable in the postgame press conference. He was especially in disbelief over the second one. Nathan MacKinnon did score off a nice shot from the right circle on the first one. There wasn’t much room there. Overall, Crawford played pretty well on the night. He saved another Oduya-Hjalmarsson breakdown later on and didn’t allow another goal.
2. The Blackhawks felt they didn’t get enough great chances on Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, but there was enough quality in those 54 shots to score a goal or two on your average night. The Blackhawks did a better job of crashing the net, creating second chances and making Varlamov really work as the game went on, especially in the third period. Varlamov deserves the credit, though. Sometimes a goalie does that, and a team has to shake its head and move on. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, Varlamov had done that a lot to them in the last two seasons. He has 222 saves on 229 shots for a .969 save percentage against the Blackhawks the last two years.
3. Teuvo Teravainen looked more comfortable in his second game. He played again with a lot of different players and saw some ice time in a top-6 role. His vision is something a lot of players just don’t have. For one, he finds people who have some time and space around them. He had one nice pass coming from the behind the net to Michal Rozsival in the right circle. He’s also good at identifying teammates as they’re making a move to the net without the puck and getting them the puck in those situations. He nearly connected with Patrick Kane for one of those Tuesday. Teravainen was fourth among the forwards with a plus-13 and has been a plus-18 over the two games. He’s been defensively responsible, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville seems to trust him as he’s given Teravainen 10-plus minutes in both games. As he spends more time in the NHL and gets to know his teammates better, he’ll start to produce.
So was he.
The 20-year-old Teravainen admitted to feeling some nerves and was dissatisfied with his performance against the Dallas Stars. With that behind him, he’s planning for a more positive showing when he takes the ice again against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
“I think [I] was a little nervous there or something,” Teravainen said. “I’m not happy with my game. I can play better.”
Teravainen’s first game back to the NHL after spending three months with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs included some ups and downs. He displayed the superior vision which has made him the Blackhawks’ top prospect on a few passes and had some shifts where he was solid on both ends of the ice. He also looked out of place at times whether he was being knocked off the puck, committing a turnover in the defensive zone or skating into Patrick Kane on one rush.
It’s not how he pictured the game going, but he also understood everything might not click right away.
“It’s, of course, new things, new teammates and new game after Rockford,” said Teravainen, who was a plus-5 Corsi and wasn’t on the ice for any goals for or against. “Get some time, I don’t know. I’m happy to get the first game, and I’ll play better.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville showed some confidence in Teravainen by playing him 15 shifts and 10:50. Quenneville has to trust a young player to give him 10-plus minutes. By comparison, Jeremy Morin never received that much ice time in a game this season before being traded.
He’s 20 now.
It’s not much of a difference, but he does feel older and more prepared as he embarks on his second NHL stint after being recalled on Friday. He will play in his first NHL game this season and fourth of his career on Sunday.
“Of course, I’m getting older,” Teravainen said after practice Saturday. “I’m not old yet. But, yeah, I feel more comfortable."
Expectations have been high for Teravainen since he began showcasing his high-end offensive ability in Europe after being drafted in the first round in 2012. The Blackhawks have tried to moderate those expectations and ease Teravainen into the NHL over the last year.
The Blackhawks placed him in the AHL to begin this season to help in his transition. He spent three months and played 33 games for the Rockford IceHogs before he was recalled Friday.
“I think I’ve improved just a little bit of everything -- my defensive game, it’s been good, and just create some offense and just American-style hockey,” Teravainen said. “I’ve just been learning every day.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is aware of the hype surrounding Teravainen and the type of player he can be, but his focus is on giving Teravainen time to develop.
“He has high-end potential,” Quenneville said. “Expectations internally are at the right area where, ‘Hey, let’s let him go and see how he matures and progresses.’ There’s not the buildup or the hype of a [Jonathan] Toews or [Patrick] Kane, but he’s a young kid. Let him play and hopefully he keeps getting better every game and every year. It’ll be good for the organization if that’s the case.”
Kane was in a similar situation when he broke into the league as a rookie. He thought he succeeded because he was na´ve about it.
“When I was coming up I was almost too dumb, too stupid to even know what was going on,” Kane said. “Sometimes you just go out there and play. Sometimes that can be the best recipe for success. I'm sure he wants to prove some things. When someone gets called up you always try to encourage them to play their game, to play the game the way that got them there in the first place.
Teravainen possesses that same mentality.
“I know there’s some expectations, and I’m a young player,” Teravainen said. “So I just don’t really try to care about that too much and just try to live day by day. And try to work hard and things are going to happen.”
Teravainen will have more of a defensive role when he steps into the Blackhawks’ lineup Sunday. He skated with the fourth line during practice Saturday. He’s likely going to play center on a line with Joakim Nordstrom and Ben Smith on the wings.
“Whether it’s easing [him in], that could help him do the right things, learn our system and play the right way, Quenneville said of playing Teravainen on the fourth line. “Whether quality ice time comes from power-play time, I’m sure he’ll see shifts with Kaner and other guys as well over the course of a game. It’ll grow as he plays, and how well he plays will dictate how much.”
Teravainen doesn’t care where he plays. Being in the NHL is what’s important to him.
“I’m really excited,” Teravainen said. “It’s good to be back here, it’s been my goal to be here this year, and I’ve been working so hard all summer and now in the season and I’m happy to be here.”
Teravainen's NHL arrival was obviously something the Blackhawks fan base had been looking forward to ever since he was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs out of training camp. But while Teravainen and many fans were disappointed to see him begin the season in the AHL, the Blackhawks always believed it was best for the 20-year-old native of Finland to get more North American playing experience.
Now, with Teravainen having spent three months and 30-plus games in the AHL and Kris Versteeg going down with an injury Thursday, the Blackhawks feel their top prospect is ready for the NHL.
"He's in a better spot than he was at the beginning of the season with his game," IceHogs coach Ted Dent said Friday. "I think everyone's agreed he's making strides in the right direction and has gotten better over the last month. He's played at a higher level.
"I think you lose Kris Versteeg, a highly skilled forward, they're looking to replace Versteeg with some skill. It's 'Turbo time.'"
Dent and IceHogs associate head coach Mark Osiecki worked with Teravainen over the past few months to get him more accustomed to maneuvering with and without the puck on the smaller North American ice rink. They pushed him to compete harder for the puck. They played him in all situations, including on the power play and penalty kill.
"He's played in 32, 33 games for us out of 35," Dent said. "He's gotten some games under his belt. He's gotten used to everything, style of play, when he has time in certain situations, when he has to move the puck, when he's going to get pressured on the power play. I'm sure he's learning."
One area in which Dent didn't have to do a whole lot of teaching -- one that should benefit Teravainen with Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville -- is his defense.
"Defensively, he's been good away from the puck with his recognition of where to be, his stick placement, his angles," Dent said. "He's really cognizant of when to help on defense and get back at times."
Teravainen is likely to remain at center even though Versteeg's injury opens a wing spot. Teravainen has played most of his career at center -- and played only there with the IceHogs. It's possible Andrew Shaw could move over to the right wing, and Teravainen could center the third line with Shaw and Bryan Bickell. Shaw has played the wing in the past.
Teravainen could also see some power-play time at the point. He played 5 minutes, 19 seconds on the power play in the Blackhawks' final preseason game and had a secondary assist on a power-play goal.
Teravainen, 20, is second on the IceHogs with 23 points (six goals and 17 assists) in 33 games. He had his best month in the AHL in December with three goals and seven assists in 13 games.
Teravainen is considered the Blackhawks’ top prospect. He was selected by the Blackhawks in the first round of the 2012 draft. He made his NHL debut last season and played in three games with the Blackhawks. This is his first full professional season in North America after previously playing in Finland.
IceHogs coach Ted Dent recently said Teravainen was playing some of his best hockey in Rockford.
“Recently, yeah, for sure, he's playing better," Dent said Tuesday. "The whole battle level and compete level just has to be there every night. It's tough. It's a tough league. You have to fight hard to get the puck back when you don't have it.
“Maybe he's gotten over that hump mentally. He's gotten to know his teammates better. He's been with them three months now. They're a good group of guys. I think he's settled in there as well.”
The Blackhawks made the roster transaction following an upper-body injury to Kris Versteeg on Thursday. Versteeg was expected to be examined again on Friday. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Versteeg could be out "a bit."
Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent teaches many different hockey skills to young players coming up in the AHL.
Dent deals a lot with physical skills but also mental ones. Among the latter, he tries to get his players to learn patience. Few quickly make the jump from the AHL to the NHL, particularly with the Chicago Blackhawks, and it's not always easy to accept.
Dent has been working with top Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen to understand that. The 20-year-old Teravainen went through a stretch this season during which he was frustrated about not being in the NHL and worried that his finesse and puck-carrying game wasn't suited for the AHL.
Teravainen has gotten over that as of late and is making the best of his situation. He registered his first three-point game with the IceHogs over the weekend and is having his best month in the AHL with three goals and seven assists in 11 December games.
Dent said he has also witnessed a different level of intensity in Teravainen in recent weeks.
"Recently, yeah, for sure, he' playing better," Dent said by phone Tuesday. "The whole battle level and compete level just has to be there every night. It's tough. It's a tough league. You have to fight hard to get the puck back when you don't have it.
"Maybe he's gotten over that hump mentally. He's gotten to know his teammates better. He's been with them three months now. They're a good group of guys. I think he's settled in there as well."
Teravainen has also been displaying more of his offensive skill by carrying the puck more. He developed his offensive reputation by doing just that in his native Finland. It has been paying off in the form of more offense created for himself and his teammates. Teravainen has averaged nearly three shots on net in December and had five primary assists in the month.
"I think he's just getting a little confidence with the puck, hanging onto it a little longer maybe," Dent said.
Dent placed Teravainen on a line with Mark McNeill and Peter Regin against the Chicago Wolves on Sunday and liked how they worked together. Teravainen had a goal and two assists in a 4-2 Rockford victory, and stood second on the team with 23 points in 31 games entering Tuesday.
Dent has allowed Teravainen some space when it comes to his offensive game.
"With those skill guys, you have to give them some freedom to do their thing and make plays," Dent said. "We don't try to complicate things too much. We want to try to play a team game and all be on the same page in certain aspects of the game."
Dent has also given Teravainen more of a defensive role. Teravainen was recently added to the IceHogs' penalty kill and scored a short-handed goal against the Iowa Wild last week.
Overall, Dent has liked Teravainen's defensive game.
"Defensively, he's been real good," Dent said. "He's been smart defensively. He's always in position. He has a good stick. There's no issue there at all."
When Teravainen will get his NHL next call-up remains difficult to predict. Dent's advice for Teravainen has been to approach his game as he has lately. If he does that, you never know what can happen.
"He's been good lately," Dent said. "Hopefully he can keep it going."
Garret Ross, forward, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), drafted fifth round in 2012
Ross, 22, has come up huge for the IceHogs as they have dealt with some injuries and players being recalled by the Blackhawks. He has scored five goals over the last four games. He especially lit the lamp Sunday as he scored three goals in a 5-4 win over the Lake Erie Monsters. He added another goal in a 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday. He has 18 points and a team-leading 11 goals in 26 games.
TJ Brennan, defenseman, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), acquired from Islanders in 2014
Brennan, 25, just continues to produce. After having three goals and 12 assists in November, he’s already accumulated two goals and two assists in December. He scored the game-winning goal to beat the Admirals on Wednesday. He has six goals and a team-leading 15 assists and 21 points.
Teuvo Teravainen, forward, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), drafted first round in 2012
The 20-year-old Teravainen, the Blackhawks’ top prospect, has produced more consistently in the last few weeks. He has registered points in five of the last seven games and has seven points during that span. He’s been showing off his distributing skills and has six assists since Nov. 26. He has three goals and 14 assists for the season. He’s third on the team with 17 points.
Nick Schmaltz, forward, North Dakota (NCAA), drafted 1st round in 2014
Schmaltz, an 18-year-old freshman, returned to North Dakota’s lineup this past weekend after missing four games with a lower-body injury. He scored a goal against Nebraska Omaha in his first game back Friday and had an assist Saturday. He has two goals and eight assists in 11 games this season.
Mike Paliotta, defenseman, Vermont (NCAA), drafted 3rd round in 2011
Paliotta, a 21-year-old senior, continued to produce over the weekend. He had a goal and two assists in Vermont’s 6-3 win over Maine on Friday and contributed another assist in a 4-1 win Saturday. He has five goals, 10 assists and is a plus-12 in 15 games this season. He’s tied for 20th in the country with 15 points.
Ville Pokka, defenseman, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), acquired from Islanders in 2014
Pokka, 20, had three goals and an assist in the IceHogs’ three games last week. He had two goals in their 6-1 win over the Iowa Wild on Wednesday and had their lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Wolves on Saturday. He has five goals, four assists and is plus-3 in 16 games this season.
TJ Brennan, defenseman, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), acquired from Islanders in 2014
Brennan, 25, took over the IceHogs’ team lead in points over the weekend. He has four goals and 13 assists on the season. He compiled three goals and 12 assists in November and is on a three-game points streak. He also leads the IceHogs as a plus-12.
Teuvo Teravainen, forward, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), drafted 1st round in 2012
Teravainen, 20, had a goal and an assist in the IceHogs’ win over the Wild on Wednesday and had an assist Sunday. He has three goals and 10 assists and is a minus-2 in 20 games this season.
Mark McNeill, forward, Rockford IceHogs (NCAA), drafted 1st round in 2011
McNeill, 21, has missed seven consecutive games with a lower-body injury. He wasn’t expected to miss much time when he suffered the injury on Nov. 15. He has nine goals and seven assists in 15 games this season.
Stephen Johns, defenseman, Notre Dame (NCAA), drafted 2nd round in 2010
Johns, 22, sat out the IceHogs’ two weekend games with an upper-body injury. He suffered the injury against the Wild on Wednesday. He has six assists and is a plus-11 in 20 games this season.
Tyler Motte, forward, Michigan (NCAA), drafted 4th round in 2013
Motte, a 19-year-old sophomore, had a goal in a 3-2 win over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Friday and three assists in a 6-0 win Saturday. He has five goals and five assists in 12 games this season.
John Hayden, forward, Yale (NCAA), drafted 3rd round in 2013
Hayden, a 19-year-old sophomore, scored a goal in Yale’s 2-0 win over Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday. He has three goals and six assists in eight games this season.
Beau Starrett, forward, South Shore Kings (USPHL), drafted 3rd round in 2014
Starrett, 19, made his season debut on Friday. He had been out with a separated shoulder since the season began. He had an assist in each of the Kings’ two games over the weekend. He has two points in two games this season.
Fredrik Olofsson, forward, Chicago Steel (USHL), drafted 4th round in 2014
Olofsson, 18, had two assists in the Steel’s 3-2 loss to Bloomington on Saturday. He is on a four-game points streak. He has eight goals and 11 assists in 19 games this season.
Jack Ramsey, forward, Penticton Vees (BCHL), drafted 7th round in 2014
Ramsey, 19, had two goals against the Langley Rivermen on Friday. He has nine goals and 11 assists in 28 games this season.
ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Teuvo Teravainen wasn’t his usual cheerful self as he met with the media after the Rockford IceHogs’ game Sunday.
The 20-year-old Finn knew the questions before they were asked. As the Chicago Blackhawks' top prospect, he has become accustomed to queries about his development and his path to the NHL. He often has been more than happy to provide those answers.
But lately, it has been different for Teravainen. He expected to be in the NHL by now. Even when he was assigned to the AHL out of Blackhawks training camp, the center was optimistic his time in Rockford would be short. It hasn’t been.
Teravainen has been with the IceHogs for nearly two months, and it’s unknown when the Blackhawks will come calling for him. Management has said constantly the team is taking a patient approach with Teravainen and his development. It’s just that Teravainen’s patience is getting tested and his frustration has grown.
“I don’t know if I’m happy or I’m not happy [about my game],” Teravainen said Sunday. “I just try to play here. I know it’s pretty hard playing here. It’s different hockey. It’s not my type of hockey maybe, AHL hockey. I think there’s a difference with NHL hockey and AHL hockey. I’m just trying to do my job here and play my best."
Not being in the NHL is part of Teravainen’s frustration, but another part is the style of most AHL games. Teravainen thrives on puck possession and offensive skill, and the AHL isn’t always the best canvas for that.
The Blackhawks aren’t looking to change Teravainen’s game, but they have been trying to get him to adapt.
“He’s just trying to find his way, a little inconsistent maybe,” IceHogs coach Ted Dent said. “I think he would be the first to tell you he wants to play better. He wants to be better. He wants to have the puck more. He’s just going to have to learn, you know, at this level you have to go and get it. You have to battle hard in the tough areas to get the puck. It’s not a perimeter game. You have to play between the dots at times and you have to go to the net as well.”
Dent has seen brilliance from Teravainen. Dent thought the center played his best game for the IceHogs last week, when he had two assists in a victory over the Texas Stars. Dent has also seen Teravainen struggle.
Dent said he understood the whole experience must be taxing on Teravainen, and that it has led to some frustration. Dent, like the Blackhawks, has preached patience.
““Maybe lots of different things going through his head,” Dents aid. “You know it just takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight for some guys, as we’ve seen in the past with the [Brandon] Pirris, the [Jeremy] Morins, the [Jimmy] Hayes, the [Dylan] Olsens. It doesn’t happen instantaneously where they become NHL players in their first 10 games here, with the exception of guys like [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews that bypass the American League and went right to the NHL. For me, it’s just a process, and he’s just starting that path.”
I think he would be the first to tell you he wants to play better. He wants to be better. He wants to have the puck more. He's just going to have to learn, you know, at this level you have to go and get it. You have to battle hard in the tough areas to get the puck. It's not a perimeter game. You have to play between the dots at times and you have to go to the net as well.” -- Ted Dent, Rockford IceHogs coach,
on Teuvo Teravainen
Mark Bernard, the Blackhawks' hockey-administration director and minor league affiliations general manager, took in Sunday’s game between the IceHogs and Chicago Wolves. Bernard said his message to Teravainen has been the same as that coming from Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman.
“I think that’s the biggest word -- patience with the process,” Bernard said. “Teuvo is coming over [from Finland]. He’s 20 years old. This is a foreign country for him. He’s left a lot behind, his family. He’s learning the game on a smaller ice surface where things develop and happen a lot quicker. I think he’s right on track. We don’t want to push this kid too hard. We don’t want to put pressure on him. He’s going to develop at a nice pace. When he’s needed in Chicago, I’m sure he’ll be ready.
“People forget Bryan Bickell spent four years in Rockford/Norfolk and Corey Crawford spent five. They’ve turned out to be pretty good National Hockey League players. So I think it’ll be a good transition for all of our players. It’ll be something Teuvo might look back on in a few years’ time and go, ‘You know what? That was time well spent for me.'"
Teravainen has often measured his game by his point totals. He typically has been among his team's offensive leaders wherever he’s gone. Those numbers aren’t adding up for him this season -- he has two goals and eight assists in 17 games -- and that has been another area of frustration.
“I know I need some points,” Teravainen said. “I know I need to affect some offensive game. Right now, I have no points in this weekend. Of course, I’m not too happy. Our team is winning, so that’s all that matters. If I’m not getting any points, I need to [play] defense well. I think I played good defense [Sunday]. That’s all that matters.”
Teravainen’s agent, Chicago-based Markus Lehto, has tried to keep Teravainen from focusing on such things as his stats. Lehto wants Teravainen to utilize the AHL to get better in specific areas and prepare him for the NHL.
“I tell Teuvo to look beyond the numbers,” Lehto said. “Concentrate on the details. Faceoffs are really, really important. They determine whether your team has the puck. One-on-one battles, use your quick stick, use your quick feet and even use your body.
“Don’t worry about the numbers and whether you’re leading the league in scoring. That shouldn’t be a factor whether he’s ready to play in the NHL or not. I’m not saying the guys aren’t good in Rockford. I’m saying the guys with the Blackhawks are a little better than in Rockford. The points he has in Rockford might be double with the Blackhawks. Work on the details, and, yes, work on the difference between European hockey and North American hockey, even if American League hockey is different than the NHL.”
Lehto has also worked with Teravainen to not fall in the rut of worrying about when his NHL opportunity will come. Lehto said he and Bowman have had an open dialogue about Teravainen.
“It’s about being mentally tough and seeing the big picture,” Lehto said. “No just floating around and going through the emotions and waiting for that day. ‘When is someone coming to pick me up?’ It’s not about that. It’s about playing hockey. It’s not NHL hockey, but you adjust.”
Teravainen is trying to follow that advice.
“I know [the Blackhawks have] played good here,” Teravainen said. “The Blackhawks take whoever they want there. I’m trying to stay positive and be ready whenever they need me.”
Teravainen, who is considered the organization’s top prospect, was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, out of training camp and has one goal and six assists through 10 games this season. He sat the IceHogs’ last two games with an illness. The Blackhawks were forced to recall a player earlier this week when Patrick Sharp was injured, and they chose to bring up Peter Regin from the IceHogs.
“Well, in this case, Teuvo has been battling a little illness the last few days,” Bowman said in the podcast, which was recorded Friday. “So, he wasn’t healthy to come up. It really wasn’t even in the mix at this point. Moving forward, he’s had a very good start to the year. We’re happy with his progress. I think he’s made some strides.
“I think the thing we’ve always wanted to weigh is do we want to continue that progress or we do want to bring him up and try him now. This case it didn’t make sense because he’s missed a few games here.”
Bowman said the Blackhawks would assess whether Teravainen was ready whenever they needed to recall someone else in the future.
The Blackhawks would be down to 11 forwards if Sharp has to miss any time due to the lower-body injury he suffered against the Montreal Canadiens. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sharp would be out a “bit” after the game. Players’ injuries have often lasted at least a few weeks when Quenneville has used those same words before.
If the Blackhawks do need a forward, IceHogs coach Ted Dent said he has a number of them ready for that jump. The IceHogs extended their winning streak to six games by rallying from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Lake Erie Monsters 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday.
“They control what they control here,” Dent said of his players after the game. “Some of the guys have been playing really well. If there’s a need for a call-up or a spark in Chicago, then I think there’s a few guys waiting in the wings who are ready.”
Some of those possibilities performed well on Tuesday.
Mark McNeil scored two goals in Tuesday’s victory and has five points in the past three games. He leads the IceHogs with five goals and is tied for first with 10 points. He has yet to play in the NHL.
“That’s management’s decision,” McNeill said after Tuesday's game. “That’s something that’s out of my control. I just got to keep working hard and working towards that opportunity up top. ... I’m hungry. I want it for sure. Like I said, that’s not my call.”
Peter Regin had a similar answer. Regin, who re-signed with the Blackhawks in the offseason, had expected to remain in the NHL out of the training camp but was assigned to the IceHogs. He has made the most of it and has 10 points in 11 games. He scored the final two goals in Tuesday's victory. He played in 22 total games for the Blackhawks last season.
“We’re 22 guys here who are hoping to get that call,” Regin said. “It’s the same with me. That hasn’t changed. Like I said, I’m just trying to take it day by day here and to help this team out and do the best I can every day in practices and in games.
“If I get the call, I’ll be happy and I’ll do the best I can up there. Like I said, that’s out of my hands. That’s out of my control. The only thing I can control is how I play here, and I thought it’s been going pretty well, actually. Hopefully, I’m in the mix anyway.”
Phillip Danault and Garret Ross are two other forwards who have played well for the IceHogs this season. Ross had a hat trick recently and had three assists on Tuesday. Both players are tied for third on the team with eight points. Neither player has appeared in an NHL game.
“It’s tough to say,” Danault said. “We don’t know what they’re thinking. We just stay focused here. Obviously, it’s our dream to be called up as soon as possible. Chicago is the best team to know when we’re ready. They can see that through us for sure.”
One NHL call-up possibility who did not play on Tuesday was Teuvo Teravainen. He sat out Tuesday’s game due to the flu. He is considered the organization’s top prospect and is thought to have the potential to be a top-six forward. He has one goal and six assists in 10 games for the IceHogs this season.
Teravainen wasn’t available after the game, but he spoke earlier in the day about staying prepared for an NHL opportunity. He played in three NHL games last season.
“I really think I can play in that league right now,” Teravainen said after the IceHogs’ morning skate on Tuesday. “I try to wait for my chance. If I get my chance, I try to play my best.”