PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — A few days after making disparaging comments about Evgeni Malkin, CBC Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don Cherry offered a more detailed analysis of Malkin and the Pens’ 2013 season in an interview with 93-7 The Fan’s Joe Starkey that aired during Starkey, Miller and Mueller on Friday.
He clarified his comments on Malkin, explaining that he may have been too critical.
“Maybe I was a little harsh, I must admit,” Cherry said. “When he wants to play, there is nobody better in the league, absolutely. Talent-wise, he’s big, he reminds me of [Jaromir] Jagr. He turns his back to you. You can’t get the puck off him. When he wants to go through the whole team, he’ll go through the whole team. And that’s what gets me, is he can do it any time he wants to. But he does it when he wants to and he does what he wants.”
As for the Penguins as a whole, Cherry thinks that they were swept by the Bruins because they let Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara bully their stars — something that the he feels Blackhawks have been preventing in the Stanley Cup Final.
“Pittsburgh should be ashamed of themselves the way they let Crosby take the full abuse from Chara,” Cherry said. “That was an absolute crime.”
It is for this reason that he finds it hard to blame head coach Dan Bylsma for the rough ending to a once-promising season.
“If you don’t have a tough guy, if you don’t have a guy like [Blackhawks LW Bryan] Bickell, who is he supposed to send out?” Cherry asked. “When you get into the playoffs, you have to have a guy that’s going to straighten out a guy — I’m not knocking Bylsma. He did the best with what he had.”
However, Cherry felt that there were two Pens players that did push their weight around a bit, the first of which was Kris Letang.
“He’s championship material,” Cherry said of the star defenseman, who is due to be an unrestricted free agent next off-season. “You’ve got to have him signed. I wish he’d cut that stupid hair, but he could play for me any day.”
The other was Matt Cooke, and while Cherry is the first to admit that he’s had issues with Cooke’s dirty play in the past, he liked what he saw out of the winger in the Pens’ losing effort.
“This guy was your best player,” Cherry said. “If everybody on Pittsburgh had played like Cooke, then they wouldn’t have gone out in four straight, because he was magnificent standing up to the Bruins. I’d have him on my team. I’d settle him down a little bit, [but] he’s an effective player and I think they’d make a big mistake not signing him.”
The full interview can be heard here: