- Craig Custance
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Somewhere, Teuvo Teravainen fits in there.
The Blackhawks' young, skilled forward seems to fit more with the players on Tampa Bay's side of the ice than with Chicago's experienced team. He started this season in the AHL, where he spent 39 games getting used to the smaller ice and the North American game. While with Rockford, he posted 25 points in 39 games.
Now, the 20-year-old Finland native finds himself four wins away from a Stanley Cup in his first full season away from home.
"It’s unbelievable," he told ESPN.com during the whirlwind of media day. "A young guy coming here, first year in North America, and getting in the playoffs, getting in the Stanley Cup finals. It’s something special. It’s great to be part of a team like Chicago. So many great guys and an unbelievable team."
As the Blackhawks shift from the big, physical Western Conference side of the bracket to play a fast, skilled team from the East, a guy like Teravainen could end up being a difference-maker.
After playing just two games in the first round against the Nashville Predators, he became a regular in the lineup by the time the Western Conference finals rolled around. In fact, when he sat out Game 3 against the Anaheim Ducks as a healthy scratch, his speed and playmaking ability were sorely missed in the loss. It was the rare misstep in that series for coach Joel Quenneville, who did an otherwise masterful job behind the bench.
Teravainen had his most productive series against the Ducks, with three points in six games, and in a series that is going to be full of speed, he should match up well against Tampa Bay.
If there’s an X factor in this series, he could be the guy.
"I think I’m getting better all the time," Teravainen said. "Every time I step on the ice, I think I’m feeling more confident. I feel a lot better. I get a lot more experience all the time. I start with the AHL team and I improved my game all the time. ... These playoffs, I think I’ve been even better. I just have to show again in the finals."
Teravainen said he’s most looking forward to playing against fellow Finland native Valtteri Filppula, his teammate with Jokerit during the lockout. While other Blackhawks spoke of taking on guys like Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson, clear admiration flowed from Teravainen when he spoke of the veteran Filppula.
"He’s a great player and a great guy also," Teravainen said. "So much skill. He’s really creative."
And Teravainen doesn’t have to look much further than Filppula to understand that while this is coming quickly, there’s no guarantee that it’ll happen often. Filppula played in two Stanley Cup finals in his first three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings.
That was six years ago, and this is his first time back to the finals. His advice? Enjoy it now.
"My first three years was conference finals, next two years you’re in the finals," Filppula said. "You’re thinking, 'This is pretty awesome, I get to play it every year.' ... It’s tough to explain. Now you realize, it’s so tough to get in. I feel like you don’t even have to necessarily think about it too much. You just have to enjoy the moment."
1dScott Burnside and Craig Custance