9 Most Heated Player Rivalries in the NHL Today

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2012

9 Most Heated Player Rivalries in the NHL Today

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    There's something about a nasty player feud that brings out the blood lust in fans.

    The sight of the Flyers' logo in Pittsburgh or a glimpse of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Philadelphia means that a fevered battle is at the ready. The fans simply despise the opposing team and want to beat them badly.

    However, the stakes go up when players get caught up in the intensity. For example, Sidney Crosby may be the best player in the league when he's healthy. He hasn't been in top form for a while because of concussion-related issues.

    During his long convalescence, Claude Giroux has continued to thrive and grow in Philadelphia. His head coach Peter Laviolette has promoted him as the best player in the league. As a result, whenever Crosby and Giroux play against each other, emotions have a tendency to be on display.

    During last spring's playoff series, there was no backing down from either player, and there's likely to be further displays of temper and tension in upcoming seasons.

    Here's a look at eight other notable player rivalries.

Milan Lucic vs. Ryan Miller

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    Milan Lucic blocked a shot from Thomas Vanek last November and the puck rebounded towards the Buffalo end.

    Lucic took off at full speed and had dreams of a breakaway against Ryan Miller. Unfortunately, he could not control the puck, and Miller raced out of his crease to beat Lucic to the puck.

    Once he saw that he was not going to get his breakaway chance, Lucic did not peel off and let Miller make his play. Instead, he barreled into Miller and knocked him to the ice.

    While Lucic hit Miller, a closer look reveals that the burly Bruins forward did not hit him with everything he had. Still, it was enough to get him a two-minute penalty.

    After the game, Miller called out Lucic for what he said was a dirty play (source: wgr550.com). All eyes in Boston and Buffalo will be on Miller and Lucic to see what happens in future meetings.

Zdeno Chara vs. Max Pacioretty

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    There is always hostility when the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens get together.

    No matter which team has the edge in talent, there's often a physical edge that bubbles to the surface with regularity. Usually the Bruins are the bigger and stronger team, but the Canadiens have been known to assert themselves as well.

    However, when the Bruins met the Canadiens in Montreal in March of 2011, the Bruins were trailing 4-0 and were frustrated by their hosts' skill and speed.

    Defenseman Zdeno Chara had a chance to lay out rival Max Pacioretty when the two came together near the boards, and Chara lowered the boom. The play would have been fine if the check had not occurred near the stanchion leading to the Canadiens' bench.

    Pacioretty was motionless on the ice after the hit and Chara was thrown out of the game.

    Pacioretty would not play again during the season and Montreal police launched an investigation to the hit.

    While no charges were filed, it only increased the bad blood between the teams.

    Chara said he regretted causing injury to Pacioretty, but he had been angry after Pacioretty had scored an overtime goal against the Bruins earlier in the season.

    The huge Chara has a reputation for playing a punishing style but he is not known as a dirty player. However, the Pacioretty hit remains controversial.

Steven Stamkos vs. Evgeni Malkin

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    Not all player rivalries involve physical play and violence.

    Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins are two of the most talented offensive players in the league. Stamkos led the NHL with 60 goals, while Malkin led the league in scoring and had 50 goals.

    Any time the Penguins and the Lightning play, the fans have a chance to see two of the most talented players in the league compete and light up the scoreboard.

    There are plenty of other talented players on both teams that only make this matchup of high-scoring teams even more appealing.

    Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are always trying to set up Malkin and Stamkos, and they are all capable of scoring themselves.

Henrik Lundqvist vs. Jonathan Quick

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    This is a rivalry and it's real, but it's unfortunate that the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings don't play more than twice a season.

    However, any time the two teams get together, the fans in attendance have a chance to see a classic goaltender's duel.

    While Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak in St. Louis and Pekka Rinne in Nashville may want to argue, Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick are the two best goalies in the game right now.

    Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy while Quick came away with the Conn Smythe as the Kings won the Stanley Cup.

    A classic is likely to unfold when the Kings and Rangers get together.

Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin

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    It was one of the most interesting draft questions of the last decade.

    The 2010 draft featured two potential superstars in Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Both had been explosive and dramatic junior scorers, and it was clear that they were the two best players in the 2010 draft.

    It was just a matter of who would go No. 1.

    The Edmonton Oilers had the top pick, and they went with Hall. The Boston Bruins had gained (stolen) the No. 2 pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs and took Seguin.

    Seguin may have the early edge after two years since his Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup and he had a coming out party in that year's playoffs vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    However, both should soon develop into superstars, and they will be compared throughout their careers.

Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby

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    Crosby may have a rivalry with Giroux, but he had one with Alex Ovechkin before which still continues to smolder.

    Ovechkin's Capitals came out on the wrong end of a playoff battle when the Penguins won a seven-game series in 2009, and it seems that Ovechkin has never gotten over that defeat.

    While Ovechkin's numbers have been good since, they were extraordinary before.

    If the Capitals respond to new coach Adam Oates, look for the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry to make headlines once again

Joe Thornton vs. Ryan Getzlaf

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    Ryan Geltzlaf and Joe Thornton are the two best players on the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks, respectively.

    They don't like each other.

    During the 2008-09 season, they went after each other with frequency, including at the start of the 2009 playoff game pictured above.

    Thornton does not have the reputation of a tough guy, but the sight of Getzlaf brings out the warrior in him and he's not afraid to mix it up. The same goes for Getzlaf, who is not usually a fighter either.

Pavel Datsyuk vs. Jonathan Toews

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    The Chicago Blackhawks know they need to keep an eye on Pavel Datsyuk every time they play the Detroit Red Wings.

    The Red Wings know they must control Jonathan Toews when they play the Blackhawks.

    In both cases, it's easier said than done. Datsyuk may be the most gifted skater in the league and when he is at full speed and carrying the puck, he is impossible to control.

    Toews is a relentless worker who can beat opponents on the defensive end, in the faceoff circle, and when he is threatening the net.

    Both Toews and Datsyuk know they have to be at their best when these Original Six rivals get together for a classic matchup.

    This individual matchup adds tension to one of the best rivalries in the league.