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The Chicago Blackhawks were this close to making it to a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final. They were five playoff wins away from repeating as champions. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Kings won one of the best (and wildest) series in ages, leaving a powerful Chicago team asking itself some tough questions.
Let’s look back at the Blackhawks’ 2013-14 season:
- No doubt about it, Corey Crawford’s campaign ended on a sour note. That tends to happen when you allow 25 goals in your last six playoff games, many of which were ugly. Even so, those who can step back and look at the big picture may give Crawford a little more leeway and realize that he’s at least a solid starter. He went 32-16-10 with an acceptable .917 save percentage. He also went on some nice playoff runs, including a six-game winning streak in which he only allowed three goals once and had a shutout (from Game 3 against ST. Louis to Game 2 against Minnesota).
- That being said, GM Stan Bowman needs to figure out a backup solution in case Crawford struggles in another playoff series. It seemed clear that Chicago had zero interest in turning to Antti Raanta even during Crawford’s darkest moments.
- While the goaltending situation might leave some feeling a little sour, the overall picture of this Blackhawks team is still very bright.
- For one thing, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews continue to distinguish themselves as elite performers. Both seemed to take turns dominating spans of this postseason and regular season. Bowman can lock up each player long-term, as their contracts will expire after the 2014-15 campaign.
- Duncan Keith enjoyed the best (or second-best) season of his career, generating 61 points in a dominant year.
- The knock on Chicago’s depth is that they struggled at the second center position. That’s true, but many believe that Teuvo Teräväinen has a chance to solve that riddle.
- If nothing else, other young players showed promise, including Brandon Saad. Saad formed a dangerous combination with Kane and Andrew Shaw late in the Western Conference finals and could be another difference-maker, especially if the likes of Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp begin to decline.
It’s foolish to be excessively negative about Chicago after the Blackhawks fell one game short of the Stanley Cup Final, yet the organization will likely try to find a way to be even better next season. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the NHL.
Teuvo Teravainen has played both center and right wing over the course of his brief NHL career.
Now, he’s got a new position — left wing — and a pair of shiny new linemates to boot.
Teravainen will open the year playing alongside captain Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa, per the Sun-Times.
The move could be a boon for the young Finn. Several ex-Chicago wingers thrived playing alongside Toews and Hossa, most notably Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of production Teravainen, who just turned 21 last month, can manufacture on Chicago’s top line. His numbers from last year weren’t spectacular (nine points in 34 games), but he did a solid job of racking up points en route to the Stanley Cup, with 10 in 18 games.
It’ll also be interesting to see how long he sticks with Toews and Hossa.
Head coach Joel Quenneville has been known as a frequent user of the line blender, often switching up his combos at at moment’s notice.
That said, Quenneville is hoping to find some stability with this new-look group.
“[Teuvo will] play there to start the season,” he said. “Hopefully, all year.”
Pretty cool story out of Texas, where Mattias Janmark, the 22-year-old rookie that’s played a grand total of nine games in North America, has defied the odds to make the Stars’ opening-night roster.
“It’s a great story,” Dallas GM Jim Nill said, per the Morning News. “We really only planned to have him here for maybe two preseason games and then send him back. But he just kept being one of the best players out there, and he changed our minds.
“It’s a great example of what you can do if you just play hard.”
Nill acquired Janmark, 22, from Detroit at last year’s deadline as part of the Erik Cole trade. Nill was familiar with the Swedish forward from his time with the Wings — he was part of the front office team that drafted Janmark in ’13 — but didn’t think the deal would pay such immediate dividends.
As for Janmark, he didn’t even think he’d be in North America this year.
He has a contract with SHL club Frolunda, where he scored 36 points in 55 games last year. Given he’s barely played in the AHL — a few games with Grand Rapids, a few with Texas — Janmark figured he’d be back in Europe this season.
His strong play in the exhibition season changed all that. Janmark beat out two of Dallas’ touted prospects — former AHL rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie, and ’12 first-rounder Radek Faksa — for a roster spot, and showed good chemistry with third-line center Cody Eakin.
Janmark also performed well on a line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.