“The first thing was ‘Oh no, I have to go out in the media after the game,’” he said, following the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win at the Tampa Bay Lightning, to take a 1-0 series lead on Wednesday night.
C’mon, the media isn’t that terrifying.
Teravainen’s eyes scanned the cameras and recorders in his face. “Yeah, you are,” he said.
“I’ve said it before: I’m a lot more confident out there than with the media.”
He’s a 20-year-old Finn, with the scraggily playoff beard to match. Game 1 was the 50th game he’s played in the NHL between the regular season and the playoffs.
Despite that inexperience, he’s never lacked for confidence, as was evident in his making the two key offensive plays that propelled his team to victory in the third period – handing Tampa Bay its first loss in regulation (41-1-2) when leading after two periods.
“I thought he got better like our team did as the game went on,” said Coach Joel Quenneville. “He has the shoot-first mentality. He's got a decent shot, pretty good looks.”
The look he got on the Hawks’ first goal, trailing in the game 1-0, wasn’t what you’d call “good.”
It was a seeing-eye shot that Teravainen quickly sent to the net to take advantage of a double-screen of Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger in front of Ben Bishop.
“I just tried to shoot it high there. Sometimes, good things happen. Maybe the goalie didn’t see it,” said Teravainen.
He didn’t. At 13:28 of the third period, the game was tied.
Just 1:58 seconds later, he made the defensive play of the game to help give the Blackhawks the lead:
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman passed the puck in his own zone to J.T. Brown. As he turned to move up ice, Teravainen picked his pocket and shoved to puck to an open Antoine Vermette in front.
He snapped a shot past Bishop, and the Blackhawks celebrated their 2-goal rally in front of a stunned Lightning crowd.
“I have to use my stick a lot. I just put my stick over there, create a turnover, it goes right to Vermette. Great shot,” said Teravainen.
Vermette, who has now scored two of the biggest goals of the postseason for Chicago after being a healthy scratch earlier in the playoffs, said Teravainen’s steal was indicative of how the Blackhawks want to play.
“Teuvo kept it working hard, create a turnover, and we got the puck in the slot,” he said. “I think that was a great illustration on that goal with the way we try to play, try to establish our speed and moving our feet, especially in their end.”
For Teravainen, starring in a Stanley Cup Final game was the culmination of a season-long process with the Blackhawks. He played with men in Finland while a teenager with Jokerit, before making the jump to the NHL in 2014.
“It’s a pretty good league. It prepared me a little bit,” he said.
He spent 39 games with the Rockford Ice Hogs this season in the AHL to get acclimated with the smaller North American ice, and to find playing time he might not have gotten with the Hawks.
Teravainen showed flashes of brilliance in the regular season during 34 games, although he only amassed 4 goals and 5 assists. There were projections that he would take over the No. 2 center spot for the Blackhawks this season; instead, they handled his first full year in the league a bit more meticulously.
“He’s one of the most talented guys I see, watching him every day. But coming to this team, there are so many skilled players, they decided that instead of playing only a few minutes they put him on a minor team so he could play lots of minutes,” said Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa. “Obviously, it’s paying off. He’s playing with such confidence.”
That confidence wasn’t shaken when he was scratched in five games during the playoff run, including a high-profile benching in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
“I just try to be myself out there,” said Teravainen. “I just have to stick with the good things. Sometimes I make bad plays, but I have to forget those and think with the good things.
Scratched with him for that game against the Anaheim Ducks? Vermette, the other offensive hero in Game 1.
If the Blackhawks and Lightning stars play to a stalemate, as they did in the opening game of the series, then it falls to their depth players to make a difference. It’s players like Vermette and Teravainen that give the Blackhawks the edge there, as was evident in Game 1.
“I think every year our team has had success in the playoffs, depth has been a key to our success,” said Chicago forward Patrick Sharp. “It seems like the so-called hero can come from anybody at anytime. There’s a belief in our room that we can pull it out despite whatever situation we’re in, and that was the case tonight.’’
It helps to have a skilled player like Teravainen down the lineup, poised beyond his years.
“He’s growing more confident every game. He doesn’t seem to have a heartbeat,” said Hossa.
“He’s so calm. He’s Finnish cold.”