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HELSINKI – Teemu Selanne predicted it was only a matter of time before the ketchup started flowing.
The legendary NHL sharp-shooter knew there was no way to keep Patrik Laine’s goal-scoring gift bottled up for long, and he used a rare condiment analogy – humourous but effective – to make his point.
Selanne, generous with his time for a couple of Winnipeg reporters prior to Thursday’s contest between the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers, said the 20-year-old Finn was bound to break out of his mini-slump.
“We all have to go through little slumps here and there. I was talking (Wednesday) with Patrik (telling him) to relax, don’t try too hard. Nothing great happens when you are squeezing your stick. Just relax. Everything has to come smoothly. He’s one of the guys, like all of the goal scorers,” said Selanne, a king in his Finnish homeland and as close to hockey royalty in Winnipeg as there can be.
“He needs a couple of good confidence games to get a couple of goals and then it’s like the Heinz Ketchup bottle syndrome. Sometimes. you don’t get the ketchup out, but when it comes, it really comes. That’s what he needs. He needs to get that ketchup moving out.”
Turns out the Finnish Flash was right. Laine fired three goals – his fourth, fifth and sixth of the 2018-19 NHL season – halting a five-game drought.
“We all know that he can score 10 goals in 10 games, or not even 10 games. It’s all about confidence. There’s no better feeling as a goal scorer, when you know that the puck is coming. He needs a couple of confidence games to get over this slump,” said Selanne. “You can’t lose (scoring touch) over the summer. You know that eventually it’s going to happen. You just have to start as soon as possible. But you can’t start pushing and squeezing. Everything has to come smoothly.”
Selanne knows a thing or two about scoring in waves. The Helskinki product, who received hero’s welcome when he stepped onto the ice at Hartwall Arena to drop the puck during a pre-game ceremony, scored a record 76 goals in his rookie season with the Jets during the 1992-93 season.
He’d have a couple of 50-goal seasons with Anaheim and won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks, finishing a 21-year career with 684 tallies and 773 helpers. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017.
Selanne said he remembers thrilling Jets fans during those magical years and can empathize with the pressure Laine places on himself to produce.
“I know exactly how he feels and how the city feels. I went through it during my time and there is nothing better. Winnipeg has great fans,” he said. “You can’t start feeling sorry for yourself when you have a couple of bad games. You know that media is all over you. You just have to put that to the side.
“He’s expecting the most from himself and a lot of times that makes you try too hard and start forcing stuff.”
Selanne was in the very same building in early 2016 when Laine helped spark Finland’s gold-medal run at the world junior hockey championship.
“Huge… I was so excited. I was jumping. It was a big thing. (Laine) has great memories from this rink. The whole country was (excited). It felt way bigger than just the world junior gold medal. We are hockey crazy here, for sure,” said Laine.
Selanne said he was bursting with pride seeing the response from his country to the Global Series, and was overwhelmed with the sea of Jets jerseys in the building.
“It’s great. We have a long history with Winnipeg here. They’re the most famous (NHL) hockey team right now and people are really, every morning, they’re checking out how Winnipeg played and how Patrik played,” he said. “They’ve been living this whole thing with him. It’s a big thing.”
Assistant sports editor
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