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Vancouver Canucks: Can the San Jose Sharks Become the New Public Enemy No. 1?

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 28:  Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks collides with Torrey Mitchell #17 of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on December 28, 2011 in San Jose, California. The Canucks won the game in overtime 3-2.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Andrew EideCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2011

The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks hooked up for their second meeting since last season’s Western Conference Finals in a game that was filled with playoff-type intensity. Vancouver won the matchup 3-2 in overtime, but this game could have gone either way.

With NHL realignment putting these two teams in the same conference next year, are we seeing a budding rivalry?

Many Canucks fans have bemoaned the loss of games against the Chicago Blackhawks that the new NHL conference setup will bring. They like to hate Chicago and will miss battling them on the ice and in the Western Conference standings.

But last night showed us that the Canucks fans, and players, may have a new rivalry on their hands.

The two teams don’t seem to have the outright burning hatred that Chicago and Vancouver seem to have. What they do have are two loaded teams that play entertaining hockey games against each other.

Last night’s game could have easily slid into last season’s playoff series.

While San Jose and Vancouver do not have a long history of intense games with each other, they seem to be on a collision course. Meeting in the playoffs last year with a Stanley Cup Finals berth on the line was just the beginning.

So far, the two squads have intense games and Western Conference bragging rights standing between them. The animosity is building.

In the third period last night, we began to see it brewing.

The game got chippy when Ryan Kesler and Jamie McGinn got into a scrum that led to all 10 players on the ice getting to know each other. The scrum was highlighted by Kesler and McGinn having an amusing-looking conversation by themselves, Kesler leaning his chin on the butt end of his stick.

Joe Thornton turned schoolyard bully after that by “accidentally” putting his glove in Henrik Sedin’s face while talking to the officials after the scrum had been sorted out.

Thornton may turn out to be the target of Vancouver fans' hatred. A gifted player, he sometimes acts the fool and last night we saw that. After the glove incident, he seemed to jump all over the Sedins' backs. While this may irk Canucks fans, it actually seemed to make Thornton less efficient and maybe more importantly helps build a rivalry.

Both franchises are in great shape, have shown a commitment to win and will probably be the beasts of the new, yet-to-be-named conference. That will make for season-long battles and, without a doubt, more playoff matchups.

The two teams meet again, in Vancouver, in a week. It will be interesting to see how chippy that game becomes after last night’s antics.

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