Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins Developing Unusual Heated Rivalry
One is an Original Six franchise with a half-dozen Stanley Cup titles dating back to 1929; the other is a 1997 southern relocation with just one Stanley Cup.
One has made the playoffs for five consecutive years, including an NHL championship in 2011; the other has entered the postseason just twice in the last nine seasons.
One has a net worth of $348 million with a $129 million annual revenue; the other checks in at a value of $162 million and draws just $85 million of revenue a year.
And a road trip between Boston's TD Banknorth Garden and Raleigh's PNC Arena would take approximately 11 and a half hours and cover over 700 miles.
However, those extreme differences aside, the two foes have quietly developed a seething under-the-surface rivalry in recent years.
It all began in May 2009, when veteran Hurricanes grinder Scott Walker made an impulsive decision he likely soon wished to retract.
With Carolina trailing 4-0 in the final minutes in Game 5 of the second round of the playoffs, Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward gave Hurricanes forward Matt Cullen a slight shove. Walker, then 35, stepped in to drop the gloves with Ward and unleashed a vicious right-hand haymaker to the face—unaware or uncaring that Ward had not done the same.
The ensuing scuffle and 17 minutes of penalties on Walker were fully deserved, but the NHL's decision to fine the 'Canes winger just $2,500 and not issue a suspension drew plenty of criticism.
Four days later, Walker—who had scored just five times in 54 prior appearances that season—decided the series in Carolina's favor with a Game 7 overtime goal.
The feud was on.
The Bruins won six of eight meetings during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, with only a half-dozen fighting majors issued to each team over that span.
Which team is the Hurricanes' biggest rival?
However, all of the frustration and resentment built up between Carolina and Boston finally boiled over more than two years after the original Scott Walker incident.
With six minutes left in the second period of the Hurricanes and Bruins contest on Oct. 18, 2011, Carolina defenseman Jay Harrison and Boston forward Milan Lucic—two willing enforcers who had fought each other for the first time the previous February—engaged in a shoving match in front of the goal.
The play was whistled dead by the referee, allowing Patrick Dwyer, Brett Sutter and Tomas Kaberle the opportunity to provide support for Harrison.
Still, all would have been fine and well, but Bruins elephant Zdeno Chara took offense to the four-on-one mismatch...
...and the rest is history.
When the game reached the boxscore later that evening, Boston had amassed 72 penalty minutes, Carolina had cashed in for two third-period 5-on-3 goals and the Hurricanes had walked out of Beantown with a 4-1 win.
But, in truth, the showdown exemplified—and foreshadowed—far more than those three simple numbers.
Chara, Lucic, Nathan Horton and Brad Marshand all received 10-minute misconducts and Bruins coach Claude Julien walked out early after receiving an abuse of officials minor; meanwhile, the Hurricanes maintained their full 13-man bench throughout the game and totaled just 22 penalty minutes.
Nothing illustrated the disparity in self-control more than a third period debacle between Horton and Tim Gleason. Unwilling to fight, Gleason was forced into a turtle position inside his jersey as No. 18 irately smashed down with two fists and a handful of cloth.
The Bruins had a long season series ahead of them.
Four months later, the 'Canes concluded a 4-0-0 sweep of their 2011-12 meetings with Boston with a lopsided 3-0 shutout in their return to TD Garden.
The Bruins racked up 90 PIM in the four games—the Hurricanes registered 42.
The Bruins scored five goals in the four games—the Hurricanes potted 14.
Last month, Boston finally broke their slump by defeating the 'Canes 5-3 on Jan. 28. Dougie Hamilton's pass to David Krejci set up the Bruins' game-winning goal with 1:50 remaining.
Yet, of course, the hard-fought, largely courteous contest did not finish without controversy.
Moments before Tyler Seguin sealed the win with an empty net tally in the final seconds, Jeff Skinner and Patrice Bergeron became entangled behind the Bruin net.
A fiery, quite curse-laden duel between the two talented scorers followed, but the media controversy in the following hours and days—did Skinner slew-foot Bergeron while the referees (and TV cameras) weren't looking?—stole the postgame headlines.
Brad Marchand certainly thought so. He told the press the following day that Carolina's 20-year-old star "slew-foots all the time", with some other choice phrases also thrown in.
And so, 1,381 days since Scott Walker's infamous punch, one of hockey's most unlikely rivalries brews on in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Boston, Massachusetts.
Most certainly not.
But it's headed that way.
Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009, receiving almost a million views on his 450-plus articles to date.
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