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Finnish rookie gets his kicks for Blackhawks

TAMPA, Fla. – After Teuvo Teravainen did what few 20-year-olds ever do in the Stanley Cup final Wednesday night, Chicago veteran Marian Hossa marveled about the kid’s calm and even gave him a nickname.

Finnish cold.

“I never heard that before,” Teravainen said Thursday in Amalie Arena. “I guess that’s right, I try to be pretty calm out there, do my thing, not stress about it too much. I think I play better if I’m just calm and ready.”

You watch a third period like the one we saw here in Game One and it’s pretty easy to figure out why the Blackhawks aren’t leaving the playoff map anytime soon, no matter what deletions the salary cap might cause. They keep finding talent and molding it into the framework of their team.

Teravainen, a center picked 18th overall in the 2012 draft, posted a goal and an assist in the final 6:32 of the Hawks’ 2-1 comeback win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. He thus became the first rookie in NHL history to score two third-period points in the first game of a Cup final. Last rookie to post more than one point for an entire Cup final opener? Jaromir Jagr in 1991.

At 5-11 and 178 pounds, Teravainen still needs to improve his physique. But there’s no questioning his skill. The Helsinki native was the captain of Finland’s gold-medal team in the 2014 World Junior Championships – won on an overtime goal by Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen – and has shown some sick mitts in recent games.

His goal with 6:32 left on a long screened shot got the Hawks even and then he set up Antoine Vermette’s winner by stripping J.T. Brown in the Tampa zone and feeding the puck to his left.

“The game started like 3 a.m. in Finland and I think there were still a lot of my friends and family, a lot of Finns watching,” he said. “It’s great to score a goal. I think that was kind of lucky one. Just shoot it and it went in. It’s great for me, and I think Finland went a little crazy about it, too. That’s fun.”

“We try to encourage him to just get pucks through,” said coach Joel Quenneville. “Getting pucks to the net can result in action at the net. Sometimes they go in. Last night was exactly what you’re talking about. But we had traffic. Looking for the perfect play with not a lot of time is tough. Usually leads to turnovers. We try to stress that with our team game as well. Very timely plays by him, getting more of a shot mentality to his game.”

Teravainen comes from a hockey-playing family that includes his father, a brother and a sister. Even his mother plays floor ball in Finland.

“My sister is pretty good,” he said. “My brother is pretty good. He’s a D-man. But I think right now I’m the best.”

Teravainen smiled and got a big laugh with that comment. He also broke up the Hawks’ dressing room late Wednesday when he told reporters this was his first thought after scoring the tying goal in his first Cup final game: “Oh no, I have to go do media now.”

Seriously.

As he sat at a lectern Thursday, you could sense his nerves. Understandable. A room full of cameras and veteran reporters and this is a kid who barely shaves. A playoff beard? No chance.

Teravainen said 40-year-old defenseman Kimmo Timonen is acting like a second father for him during his initial forays into the NHL. And they talk about far more than just games. Timonen told the Canadian Press this week that Teravainen has star power, provided he perfects his craft 12 months a year.

“He’s got a long way to go,” Timonen said. “He’s a skinny guy, so he’s got to start lifting weights. … I told him, ‘This summer, you’ve got to make sure you work out. Golf is not a workout.’ ”

“My real dad is far, far in Finland, so he’s just helping with some little things,” Teravainen said of Timonen. “Just a lot of experience, great to have him here.”

Teravainen has three goals and eight points with a plus-3 rating in 13 playoff games. And his regular season, which opened in the minors, was pedestrian, with four goals and five assists in 34 games.

It’s not easy for Quenneville, or most coaches, to trust a 20-year-old. Especially at this level. Teravainen, in fact, has been a healthy scratch five times during these playoffs. News flash: He’s not seeing the press box anymore.

“I think we trust players more when they play the right way,” Quenneville said. “It’s more what they do defensively, how they handle pucks in safe plays, their positional awareness, their strength in the puck areas. … He’s got a quick stick, a good awareness. I think with time you can trust him in different situations. The thing is last night was a good example of putting him out there based on what he’s done for us recently. We like the progression.”

“When you’re trying to find ways to win a tough series, you can rely on your best players, but at the same time you need guys to come out of the woodwork,” said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. “Maybe guys that you don’t expect firsthand to make big plays. … Teuvo has been getting better and better. I think it’s a great example of that support we need from guys that maybe don’t get the attention or credit on a regular basis.”

The Hawks got no points from Toews or Patrick Kane in Game One. They didn’t have a lot going on until a relative unknown with freezing cold water in his veins had a coming-out party on the game’s biggest stage.

“This organization has done a good job not to try to put too much pressure on him, just kind of give him the opportunity,” defenseman Johnny Oduya said of Teravainen. “When he’s mature to play, he’s mature to play. He’s shown that, especially in these playoffs.”

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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