Mar 242014

Lindbloom_SuperTeuvo_2014Mar25(credit to:  )

By Rich Lindbloom

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Yes it’s Superteravainen, strange visitor from another planet, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superteravainen, who can change the course of mighty rivers, play #2 center for the Hawks, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Patrick Kane, a mild mannered forward for a great metropolitan hockey team, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.”

Apparently, it’s Teuvo time. In over 50 years of following the Blackhawks, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the hype and fanfare that has been associated with the 19 year old, 5’11”, 169lbs Center/Left Wing from Helsinki, Finland. Basically, much of the Hawk fan base is expecting him to be the second coming of the Messiah. That might prove to be an easier assignment than trying to fill the slot of the Hawks mystical second center.

Watching him warm up Sunday night before the Predator game, there did seem to be something magical about him. There is no doubt in my mind he could do that puck handling trick video that Kaner and Bollig did earlier in the season. Teuvo stick handled along the blue line and then threw a few shoulder feints in for good measure. In addition the puck was seemingly super-glued to his stick. It was the shoulder feints that caught my attention though.

He appears to possess the Kaner shake and bake, the now you see it, now you don’t moves that make defenses think twice about playing him too tight. My guess is before long a lot of defenses will resort more to goal line stand type defenses over trying to blitz this kid. The ability to create space is what separates the elite from the very good in the NHL. In the brief sample I saw of Teuvo in a preseason game this year, he showed the vision that the great playmakers possess. The Wayne Gretzky like vision that was not concerned where the puck was but where it was soon going to be.

Will Teuvo be able to withstand the physicality of the NHL though? When Seth Jones suffered a possible concussion in the game on Sunday, Coach Barry Trotz did not think twice about telling him he was through for the night. “He’s a 19 year old kid playing a man’s game,” said the Trotz. Trotz’ statement was dead on. Do you think Antoine Roussel or Ryan Garbut will think twice about sending Teuvo back to the planet Krypton if the chance presents itself tonight? No, me either. I’m guessing Teuvo will not win a lot of board battles, but their almost seems to be a smirk on Coach Q’s face, even a twinkling in his eye when he talks about this kid.

As we’re all well aware of, Q tends to lean towards veterans, exhibiting very little patience for rookie mistakes.  I’m guessing he will see time on the power play almost instantly. (Obviously, that’s where we miss Kaner the most.) Whatever line he slots in on, you can bet he will have 4 big brothers watching his back when he’s on the ice. As Napoleon said to Pedro, “So you got my back and everything, right?” The important thing for Teuvo to remember is a to keep moving. I’ll never forget Jerry McDawgs sagacious philosophy when it comes to hockey; “Keep moving because a moving target is harder to hit.

Roman Josi would have been well advised to heed that advice on Sunday. Jeremy Morin levelled the Predator defenseman with a clean hit that sent Josi flying through the air like a freestyle skier in Sochi who didn’t quite nail his landing. That hit is certain to make a lot of highlight reels this season. Normally, Coach Q rewards that type of play. Inexplicably though, Coach Q did not roll four lines against the Predators on Sunday.

Morin, Regin, Handzus and Bollig all saw less than 10 minutes against the hard working Predators. Kruger only played 10:53. (by the way, Shea Weber played  34:14 and Josi played 32:41 minutes against the Hawks!) I don’t have any statistics to back it up, but it seems in many games this season, when the Hawks win handily, all the players are over 10 minutes of ice time. Why Coach Q decided to not go to the bench in this game is a mystery to me. Sometimes you can see things clearer from the 300 Section I guess – it’s the only possible explanation!

Another mystery is the ongoing assessment of Corey Crawford’s abilities, and the lack of faith many Hawk fans still have in him. While driving home Sunday night I tuned in to the Judd Sirott postgame show and listened to a fan call Corey good, but not elite. This always drives me crazy, especially when the caller next said that Rinne is an elite goalie. (which he is). I wondered to myself though, did this fan realize that Pekka had let in 13 goals in his prior 3 games? In my opinion, even though Crawford faced 12 less shots, he made as many big stops as Rinne that night.

The first goal was set up by Ryan Ellis, a young defenseman for the Predators with great offensive abilities. His slapper pass was a surgical strike. The scoundrel also got away with a subtle hip check in the third that should have been a penalty. I think it was Steeger who had dumped the puck into the corner and started to give chase. Ellis threw a sneaky hipper into him, foiling his attempt to retrieve the puck. Despite my cries of “That was interference ref,” his dastardly deed went unpunished, much like Weber’s vicious crosscheck to Versteeg’s lower back.

Not that it would have mattered – I doubt the Hawks would have scored on a power play anyway. It was just one of those nights where the bounces just don’t seem to go your way – Frustrating as hell. The Hawks wasted at least three prime chances in the first period by shooting the puck over or wide of the net. Marksmanship, or lack of I should say, proved to be our Waterloo on Sunday.

You have to make hay while the sun is shining against the Preds. Their style of play comes as close to you can to resembling communism. (The Hawks would be venture capitalists)  I don’t think the stretch pass is in the Predators offensive repertoire. A stretch pass in the Coach Trotz mindset is from behind you goal line to the nearest faceoff circle. The Preds tend to exit their zone as a unit. While their defense first mindset may make Jack a dull boy, it is pretty effective with Pekka Rinne holding down fort between the pipes.

On a side note, I’m guessing many of you thought Sheldon Brookbank’s bout with Rich Clune in the first period was meaningless. I would tend to agree but… there was a family sitting next to us with three kids on Sunday. The oldest appeared to be a young lady that I’m going to guess was about 12-13 years old. After Brookbank and Clune exchanged pleasantries, (it appeared both seemed to be saying “Are we done yet,” when the linesmen finally broke it up), I glanced at the young damsels countenance. There was a confused smile on her face, as if she had never seen anything like that before. While hopefully she’ll grow to appreciate the skills in a player like Teuvo in future games, clearly a hockey fan was born that night!

As always, I also enjoyed watching Viktor Stalberg skate on Sunday. In a league full of speedsters, Stals is a Maserati. You can recognize him instantly as he begins to motor up ice. His skating style is inimitable. I miss hollering, “Go Stals, Go!”

His style reminds me of several of the Hawks who you can recognize instantly by their strides. Keith has a ballet like approach to his skating. Leddy is a bit similar, but he possesses a crack the whip speed as he circles behind the net. At that point you know he’ll end up deep in the opponents zone – usually with no Hawks to pass to because he’s left them in his dust also! Of course theirs Handzus’s style – the slow but steady approach – ok, ok the Tudor Turtle style. Tazer has the “move out, I’m coming through” thing going on. You can pretty easily recognize Hossa’s speeding locomotive style also. I think Patrick Kane skates with his shoulders – you can’t miss him when he has the puck. Hammer has a chop suey approach and Bollig looks like a Mack truck picking up a head of steam.

What kind of stride will Teuvo have? “Will he go round in circles, or fly high like a bird up in the sky?’ as Billy Preston put it. Will he live up to the hype that has put an inordinate amount of pressure on him?

I’m betting yes – keep an eye out for the shoulder feints. Shake and bake Teuvo, shake and bake. And remember, for someone your size, discretion is the better part of valor.

Rich Lindbloom

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