As we prepare for the home stretch of the regular season, it’s time to dust off those pre-season Stanley Cup predictions and see how they’re looking.
Don Cherry picked the Winnipeg Jets to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. And while he stands by his pick, he’s got a few concerns.
“Listen, I’m still picking them,” Cherry said during Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada segment, live from Swift Current, Sask. “I’m still picking the Jets.”
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Considering their current position in the standings — first in the Central, second in the West, and third in the entire league — that’s looking like a pretty strong pick. This week, however, wasn’t their strongest showing: the club lost to the surging San Jose Sharks Tuesday, fell to the Montreal Canadiens two nights later which led to a few post-game expletives from coach Paul Maurice, and didn’t look like Cup contenders Saturday afternoon against the Ottawa Senators in their third straight loss.
“They’re having a tough time,” Cherry said.
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stood on his head Thursday against the Habs, stopping 48 of 53 shots fired his way, but didn’t get much support from those playing in front of him. He got the day off Saturday, with backup Laurent Brossoit (27 saves on 32 shots) getting the start.
But it was one of the club’s other bright young stars that Cherry is most concerned about.
“Somebody better give [Patrik] Laine a smack,” Cherry said. “This is his contract year. Get going, kid.”
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Laine, who will be a restricted free agent on July 1, had an assist Saturday but has generally struggled to put points on the board in the second half of this season. The 20-year-old Finn hasn’t scored a goal since Jan. 13, and that remains his lone marker of the calendar year.
“I know he’s got 25 goals [this season], but he’s done nothing,” Cherry said. “Give him a smack, they’ve got to get going.”