Lack of secondary scoring frustrates Chicago Blackhawks
When I asked Teuvo Teravainen on Wednesday to evaluate his play over the first 25 games of his first full NHL season, the Blackhawks' forward didn't hesitate.
Not even for a second.
"Not really good," Teravainen said. "I'd say pretty bad, actually."
His response didn't totally surprise me because Teravainen gave reporters a similar, honest comment after struggling in the first few games. He did score in the season opener but was taken off the top line in the equivalent of a nanosecond and has been mostly slotted on the third and fourth lines since.
"I try to work hard, play smart and play D and everything," Teravainen said. "It's the same game; I just feel like I'm pretty much chasing the puck and when I get the puck I'm making bad decisions. Got to play more with the puck."
Coach Joel Quenneville agrees, saying he wants the 22-year-old Finn to have the "want to" that Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin exhibit when it comes to possessing the puck.
"If he was following those lines, I think he'd be improving," Quenneville said.
The Hawks drafted Teravainen with the 18th pick of the 2012 draft and brought him along slowly, playing him in 34 games at the end of last season and 18 of 23 playoff games. Teravainen really shined during the title run, notching the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the second round against the Minnesota Wild and the game-tying goal in Game 1 of the NHL Final against Tampa Bay.
Now, facing the pressure of playing a full NHL season with ramped-up expectations, he has hit a few speed bumps.
"I know my game's going to be there when I work hard and just be patient," Teravainen said. "I'm going to find it."
The sooner the better, too, because the Hawks certainly would like to reunite him with Jonathan Toews.
"We feel playing with Johnny's probably where he's going to end up at some point, and hopefully he takes advantage of it," Quenneville said.
Teravainen's troubles with the puck of late are a microcosm of what's been wrong with the team overall. The Hawks have had a difficult time sustaining puck possession in the offensive zone.
And even when they do get chances, it seems like nobody other than Kane, Panarin or Artem Anisimov can finish. Thirty-two of the team's 68 goals have come from that trio.
That fact has been irritating Quenneville -- and the other players -- all season.
"We're all frustrated a little bit, but we're going to come together as a unit here and work through it," Andrew Shaw said. "You can't put that much pressure on one line."
Said Marcus Kruger, who has had his chances of late but has yet to score: "Obviously a little bit frustrating not to see (the pucks) go in, but at the same time you've got to do your job and work hard and hopefully (they) go in soon."
The Hawks could go on a big run if they would simply get more scoring from Shaw, Kruger, Ryan Garbutt and defenseman Trevor Daley. Based on the past two years, the Hawks should be able to count on about 50 combined goals from those four, which means the quartet should have about 15 by now.
They have 4.
Three are from Shaw, 1 an empty-netter. Teravainen has 4 goals but hasn't scored in nine straight games. Marko Dano is another who needs to finish his chances, and he has had several prime ones of late.
"We're not winning our 1-on-1 battles down low, sustaining pucks and keeping plays alive," Shaw said. "We always need a guy at the net and it's something we've gotten away from."
Not surprisingly, Quenneville had his players working on 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 battle drills at practice Wednesday as they prepared for a Thursday game at Ottawa.
Quenneville didn't run through the lines, which is a rarity and makes one wonder if he's going to mix things up again. Marian Hossa has been on the third line with Dano and Kruger. Shaw has been paired with Jonathan Toews and Garbutt on the top line of late.
"We'll see," Quenneville said. "I know that we were looking for probably a little bit more balance in last night's game (a 2-1 loss to Minnesota). We might tweak a little bit, but we'll probably go with the same group (overall)."
Scouting reportBlackhawks (13-9-3) vs. Ottawa Senators (12-7-5) at Canadian Tire Center, 6:30 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WGN 720-AM
The skinny: If Patrick Kane gets a goal or an assist, he will tie the Blackhawks' points streak record of 21 games, set by Bobby Hull in the 1971-72 season. … The Senators are the fourth-highest scoring team in the league (3.13 goals/game). They are led by Mike Hoffman and Kyle Turris, who have 11 goals each. Erik Karlsson has 26 points (21 assists) to lead the team. … Forward Milan Michalek was injured in the team's loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday when a shot hit his hand. According to NHL.com, coach Dave Cameron said Michalek (5G, 3A) will "be out for a while." … Ottawa has had six games go to a shootout, tied with Toronto for the league high. … The Hawks figure to get their chances in this one as the Senators have been outshot in 17 of 24 games. … Corey Crawford will start in net for the Hawks.
Next: Winnipeg at United Center, 4 p.m. Sunday
-- John Dietz