Don Cherry doesn’t love Evgeni Malkin, but he definitely likes him.
And he respects him even more after seeing the forward’s performance on Wednesday night.
Hockey fans knew it would be a heated affair between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Winnipeg Jets, considering the how rough their previous matchup was back on Feb. 16.
One of the incidents, a high hit from Malkin on Blake Wheeler, went unpunished by the department of player safety but not unnoticed by many in the hockey community – and especially Jets players themselves.
Naturally, Malkin and Wheeler dropped the gloves early in the first period of Wednesday’s rematch to settle the score between the two, and Cherry believes that was the right thing to do.
“He knows he’s gotta answer,” Cherry said during Saturday’s edition of Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada. “He can’t fight worth a lick and Wheeler does a number on him, but at least he showed up. He knew it was going to happen.
Cherry also liked what Malkin had to say after the game during his post-game interview with Sportsnet’s Sean Reynolds, during which he admitted that his hit on Wheeler back in February was “not great”—something Cherry agrees with—and explained that he fought Wheeler out of respect.
“It’s not great, my fight, but it’s fine,” Malkin said.
Cherry also made a strong case for Malkin being included in the NHL’s Top 100 Players, and questioned why he wasn’t named to the list during the unveiling on All-Star Weekend.
“Rookie of the year, first All-Star team three times, Art Ross Trophy, Conn Smythe MVP, Hart Trophy MVP, and the best one of all: Ted Lindsay Trophy, the players vote on that,” Cherry said. “And they vote don’t put him in the top 100! Stupid.”
“It does sound like love,” quipped Ron MacLean.