Alabama and Auburn. Yankees and Red Sox. Lakers and Celtics.
Ducks and Predators?
Two hockey teams south of the Canadian border are about to revisit a hated rivalry. Obviously it would take decades upon decades to match the examples above but, let’s face it, those rivalries had to be born sometime. In the case of Nashville and Anaheim, the birth was the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals.
On Friday night, at Honda Center in Southern California, the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators will begin their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs series and it’s sure to bring back lots of heated memories between the two teams and their fanbases. If you’re a new fan, get up to speed with the history of the rivalry below. If you’ve been a die hard for a while, take a trip down memory lane and embrace the raw emotion these images conjure up.
April 10, 2011 :: THE WARNING SHOT
In an interesting turn of events, it was actually the Anaheim media that fired the first shot in this rivalry. Orange County Register columnist Jeff Miller wrote a piece “previewing” the first round series and, well…. he called Nashville “Trashville.” Nashville blogger Patten Fuqua (then of section303.com and now with Penalty Box Radio) then fired back with the mother of all responses and two hockey markets had officially dropped the gloves.
April 13, 2011 :: THE BIRTH
With a 3-0 lead in their pockets headed into the second intermission, the Preds were feeling pretty good. It was their sixth trip to the post season in the last seven years and they had a commanding lead over a team that boasted several offensive threats. One of those offensive threats was Hart Trophy finalist Corey Perry. Perry decided to spear Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne after the second period horn had blown. Admittedly, it wasn’t the first time Perry had taken a cheap shot at a starting goaltender. Check out this cross-check on former San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Then, later in the video, we see him take liberties with Marc-Eduard Vlasic’s head and then take a swing at Brian Boucher. For some, the spear on Rinne was an obvious attempt to take Nashville’s best player off the ice for the series. For most, it was an absolutely unacceptable way to vent frustration. The Predators fan base grew irate when it was revealed there was no penalty called. Through that action — and lack of action — the rivalry was truly born.
April 15, 2011 :: THE STOMP
The Preds led the best-of-seven series 1-0. They’re down by one in a game that, if they win, will give them a 2-0 series advantage headed back into their home building. There’s less than 4:00 remaining in regulation. Predators defenseman Jon Blum has the puck tied up behind his own net but, in an effort to work it free, Anaheim sniper Bobby Ryan turns his skate into a weapon and stomps on Blum’s foot. No penalty was called on that play either, further enraging Pred Nation. They would get some reprieve, however, as Ryan was suspended for two games but, nevertheless, the hatred for the Ducks grew.
April 15, 2011 :: THE BUTT-END
Lost in the commotion of “The Stomp” was Ducks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank butt-ending Martin Erat earlier in the contest. Deep in the Anaheim zone, Brookbank positioned himself to win a battle along the boards but, in doing so, put the butt-end of his stick into Erat’s face, forcing four teeth to pop out. Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz called it “a hockey play” and, while it might have been an accident, it just added to the growing rivalry.
April 17, 2011 :: THE FIGHT
Ryan Getzlaf follows Preds center Mike Fisher to the boards. Not expecting a solid shoulder check, Getzlaf’s 6’4″, 220 pound frame goes flying off course and he’s none too happy about being embarrassed. As a result, Getzlaf gives Fisher a shot in the rib cage (where there’s no padding, by the way) on his way up the ice. Now, obviously, you don’t want to see your star players fighting, but the cheap shot by Getzlaf had to be defended. And, considering Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist were on the ice with him at the time, Fisher did the right thing and stood up for himself.
April 18, 2011 :: THE ACCUSATION
This rivalry isn’t contained just to the ice, you know. Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray helped fuel it off the ice when he told Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register that “We’ve got to start diving because it’s working (for them). They’re getting power plays because of the diving. I can go through the list of players. You already know who they are. You’ve seen them. It’s ridiculous.” Unlike Murray, Trotz was too smart to get involved in a war of words. His response? “I’m not going to say anything about that.” Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle knew it wasn’t smart to give the Preds any more bulletin board material but still managed to back up his boss, saying “I’ll just say the video doesn’t lie.” For Predators fans, it was egregious for Murray to accuse their team of diving when he had a guy like Perry in his lineup who had built a reputation for cheap shots.
April 20, 2011 :: THE HIT
Jarkko Ruutu has long been a player known as “dirty.” Let’s see… he’s had THIS clip on Martin St. Louis, he’s had THIS incident where he bit Andrew Peters and then, of course, he had THIS ridiculously late and dangerous hit on Petr Schastlivy during international competition. So, during game three of the first round, Ruutu found yet another opponent to hit. This hit, coming in open ice, caused Erat to miss the rest of the series. Thankfully, the Preds advanced and Erat would take the ice again. Ruutu, by the way, was suspended one game for the incident.
April 22, 2011 :: THE SURPRISE FINISH
The series is tied 2-2. The Ducks have home ice advantage and are playing the critical game five in their own building. They’re up 3-2 with less than 1:00 left. Nashville has never been up 3-2 in a series, let alone had a chance to advance in the playoffs on their home ice. Enter Shea Weber. The Predators’ captain winds up and blows a puck past Emery to tie the game with only 0:36 left. Enter the fourth line. Nick Spaling gets a puck up to Jordin Tootoo who feeds a perfect pass from behind the Ducks net to a streaking Jerred Smithson who scores the first ever playoff overtime winner in franchise history. In short, Anaheim was less than 1:00 from a commanding lead in the series. Instead, the Preds pulled out a victory and stunned the Ducks in front of their own fans.
April 24, 2011 :: THE TEE TIME
Despite Anaheim scoring first and despite them also tying the game late in the second, the Preds ended the Ducks’ season with a 4-2 victory. Nashville had never ended a team’s season before and Anaheim went down in the history books as the first. The Ducks were heavily favored in the series as well, having tons of offensive talent in Getzlaf, Ryan, Perry and Selanne. Considering the Predators had scored the least amount of goals among Western Conference playoff teams that corresponding regular season, it looked as if it was the worst possible match-up for Nashville. Could Nashville muster enough offense to outscore a potent offensive team and then do it four times in the same series? They did and the Ducks’ summer started.
October 29, 2011 :: THE HIT II
Mike Fisher, who missed all of training camp and the pre-season recovering from shoulder surgery, was playing in just his third game of the year. Ducks blueliner Francis Beauchemin leveled Fisher while he received a pass from Erat in the neutral zone. While Beauchemin was slapped with a double minor, some thought it was a relatively clean hit. Others thought it was dirty and called for a suspension. The league decided not to suspend the Anaheim defenseman, however, further fueling an outcry from the Preds faithful. Fisher would miss the next game with an injury he sustained on the play.
October 30, 2011 :: THE ACCUSATION II
Getzlaf, obviously frustrated with his teams’ recent lack of success against Nashville, chose to vent through the media as opposed to taking care of things on the ice. The Ducks captain told Eric Stephens “I’m tired of watching Jordin Tootoo out there, a guy who runs around and hits and does everything else but the first little slash, he’s laying on the ice and he’s out the next shift. It’s embarrassing and I’m sick of it. If they want to change the game and they want things to be better and they want more respect on the ice, get guys like that off the ice then. I’m sick of it.” Getzlaf was referring to the play below in which his teammate, Perry, once again used his stick as a weapon, slashing Tootoo.
Fast forward six years and here we are.
May 14, 2017 :: RYAN KESLER I
During the warm-ups before Game 2 of their Western Conference Final series, Kesler borderline broke the unwritten rule that you don’t cross into your opponent’s side of the red line. While true he never stepped over the red line, per se, he was seen four different times fishing for “an errant puck” on the Nashville side just as James Neal was coming towards him during his routine. You know, by total coincidence. Four times. In response no doubt, Preds center Ryan Johansen gave Kesler a little “not cool, bro” during the opening face off.
You can call it gamesmanship all you want — and, honestly, you might be right — but given how the rest of the night went, a pattern of behavior starts to develop.
May 14, 2017 :: RYAN KESLER II
During the second period, Johansen was going for a line change and Kesler saw an opportunity to land a flying elbow that went uncalled. With the increased attention on head shots and head injuries, if seen by the official, one could assume Kesler could’ve gotten anywhere from a major to a game misconduct on this play. But, give the Preds center credit. He easily could’ve went after his adversary but, instead, kept his cool and kept his sights on the task at hand.
— Grady Sas (@GradySas) May 15, 2017
May 14, 2017 :: JOHANSEN ON KESLER
After Game 2, Johansen was asked about Kesler and he did something that rarely happens in pro sports, especially in the middle of a playoff series. He was honest and candid, saying “I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that. It doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey and it sucks when you’ve got to pull a stick out of your groin every shift.”
May 14, 2017 :: KESLER ON JOHANSEN
Not to be outdone, Kesler was asked about Johansen. “I play the game hard and, obviously, he doesn’t like that.”
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Nashville. Buckle up.
NOTE: This story is re-purposed and expanded on from my original story that ran on section303.com during the 2011-12 season.