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Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Teuvo debuts to much anticipation

By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- On Oct. 4, 2007, Patrick Kane made his United Center debut in the Blackhawks' home opener.

A rare robust crowd announced at more than 18,000 showed up, and many booed the pregame tribute to the late owner William "Bill" Wirtz, who had recently passed away.

The booing ended the Bill Wirtz era and amid little fanfare, the Kane one started. In his first NHL game, Kane notched an assist in regulation and the only goal in the shootout as the Hawks won, 4-3.

Teuvo Teravainen
Teuvo Teravainen, who has drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane, didn't record a point against the Stars but won all seven of his faceoffs.

Six days later, Jonathan Toews made his NHL debut, scoring on his first shot in a 2-1 loss to San Jose. A paltry crowd announced at 10,122, more of the norm for that time, was there for the first game of a storied career.

More than six years and two Stanley Cups later, Finnish phenom Teuvo Teravainen debuted to much more anticipation, by volume, thanks to the legacy-making work put in by Toews and Kane, among others.

The usual crowd of 21,493 was there for Teuvo's debut, with many interested in seeing the new kid, but more excited just to see the Blackhawks score at all after getting shut out by Nashville at home on Sunday.

"That was fun," Teuvo said. "So many people and they're loud. It's great fans here."

The youthful 19-year-old center logged 11:39 of ice time, playing on a line with Ben Smith and Brandon Saad and on the power play. He won all seven of his faceoffs but didn't rack up a point in his debut Tuesday in the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Dallas. Everyone was happy with how he played in his first NHL game. Well, almost everyone.

"I played OK," Teuvo said. "But it wasn't too good."

Yes, we're going first name only. That's my style, anyway. It's pronounced "Tay-vo," although Kris Versteeg called him "Tay-voo." After he arrived, coach Joel Quenneville pronounced it "Tivo."

But it's Teravainen on the back of those $215 replica No. 86 jerseys on sale at the team store inside the arena. The store employee situated by his jersey told me they sold "five or six" during his debut.

"Oh really?" Teuvo said. "That's great."

Andrew Shaw had the prettiest goal of the night, a falling backhand whack for the game's first score. Duncan Keith scored a one-timer goal, and Versteeg got credit for a deflected one.

But it was still #TeuvoTime as reporters asked many questions about the new guy.

On some teams, the rookie who comes in and gets press conferences and media attention would get some flak from his teammates. It hasn't happened just yet.

"No, he deserves it," Versteeg said. "That's what young stars do, they get attention and they deserve it because of their talents."

Teuvo was drafted 18th in 2012 and played in two preseason games this season. His recent arrival, after his season in Finland ended, was met with much interest after a season's worth of anticipation.

Some of the fanfare was in jest, but the Blackhawks fan base, not to mention the players, were interested to see how this young, flashy Finn would fit in with a Stanley Cup contender. Especially with the team missing Kane for the rest of the regular season, after a "lower body" injury suffered last week in a 4-0 win over St. Louis.

Mostly, it's fun to have someone new to talk about. Someone different to spark the imagination.

As popular as they are, the Blackhawks haven't generated a ton of chatter during this reigning champion season. Maybe because it was completely unlike their previous such season, when the team had to discard much of the complementary cast for salary cap reasons.

Maybe because they've been good, but not dominating. They're a contender, but not an overall favorite.

The two biggest events of this season, after the Stanley Cup banner was raised, were the Sochi Olympics and the outdoor game at Soldier Field. But it's getting close to playoff time when all eyes are on the Hawks.

As of Tuesday night, they were tied with Anaheim for fourth place in the Western Conference with 99 points and slated to play Colorado in the first round. That's not a great matchup for Chicago, given that the Avalanche have won four of five games against them this season.

Of course, the Hawks need a healthy Kane for the postseason, but a fresh Teuvo will certainly help down the stretch as the Hawks jockey for position and try to get mentally ready for what they'd like to be a very long run.

Little with an exciting repertoire of skills, Teuvo draws inevitable comparisons to Kane. That's not realistic, but if he can just be the best Teuvo on the team, that's enough .

"I liked him," Quenneville said. "His awareness around the rink, both sides, and the faceoff circle was very good."

Quenneville said he particularly liked how Teuvo attacked the middle of the ice, "wanting the puck."

Teuvo said his legs weren't there, and admitted to being a little nervous. He had a few nice passes, but didn't attack the net.

"If he's not nervous, he's not human," Versteeg said. "He comes in at the end of the season to a very good team, people put a lot of expectations on him, unfair expectations, but he came in here and played really good."