Whenever someone asks about building rivalries for "non-traditional" markets in the NHL, the answer always comes back to the postseason, which is an incubator of hatred.
The Nashville Predators' rivalry with the Anaheim Ducks, which continues Wednesday night at Honda Center, is the most recent case study.
Because they really, really can't stand each other. Really.
During their Western Conference quarterfinal last season, they had a series that featured Bobby Ryan's skate-stomp on Jonathon Blum, Jarkko Ruutu's hit on Martin Erat in Game 4, Ducks GM Bob Murray's proclamation that his players needed to start diving because the Preds were doing it so effectively and, eventually, Nashville winning its first playoff series ever over the Ducks in Game 6.
The hate carried over to their first regular-season battle on Oct. 29, when Mike Fisher took a headshot from Francois Beauchemin (penalty, no suspension) while Jordin Tootoo acted like a little fake artist in drawing a penalty from Corey Perry and drawing the ire of Ryan Getzlaf, who said:
"We keep talking about all this stuff and changing rules and head shots and all that kind of stuff," Getzlaf said. "That's not the stuff that's hurting our game. It's the lack of respect on the ice. 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 also said: "Guys get slashed every single shift. They don't lay on the ice and flop around and embarrass themselves. And I hate that part of our game."
In anticipation of Wednesday night's rematch, Getzlaf didn't back down. Neither did Tootoo. Meanwhile, coach Barry Trotz decided to increase the stakes by calling the Ducks whiners. Oh, this should be a good time.
Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle did his best to keep the team focused ahead of facing Tootoo and the Predators: "Go after their better players. Don't go after Jordin Tootoo."
Getzlaf made it known he doesn't anticipate Tootoo will get him off his game ("The frustration part of it is for me to deal with and that's not a difficult thing for me to deal with") and that he still disapproves of Tootoo's play. Via Jeff Miller of Ducks Blog:
"I feel so strongly about it because I don't do it," Getzlaf said Tuesday. "I never have. You (could) never show me a tape of me diving anywhere, so that's something I 100 percent can back up."
The Ducks expressed similar frustration during the first round of the playoffs last season, when they were eliminated by the Predators.
"It's either going to go one of two ways," Getzlaf said. "He's either going to recognize that other players are saying stuff throughout the league and shape up and just play hockey. Or it could go the other way; he could be worse. Who knows?"
Tootoo? See if you can actually feel the smile of self-satisfaction over the fact that his diving and clowning have become an issue for the Ducks before this game. From Josh Cooper at The Tennessean:
"When you have their top guys off their game, mentally, they're frustrated and bad things tend to happen when you're frustrated like that," Tootoo said. "For me personally I know I'm doing my job, and I'm definitely going to bring that tonight."
His coach, meanwhile, decided to give a little shot at the Ducks' dirty play and their response to Tootoo:
"They have some guys who aren't exactly lilywhite, some of their tough guys," Trotz said. "You watch them behind the play when the ref's not looking, they do a lot of (stuff). That's just whining to me. Go on the ice, play and if you have a problem with someone, take care of it. Don't go through the paper. That's all."
Well, in fairness, it's not necessarily whining. It's more like recitation of facts. Jordin Tootoo is a serial embellisher. When Trotz called Jarkko Ruutu a "5-minute player," that always was a fact.
On top of all of this: The Predators have 16 points and are coming off a loss to the Kings; the Ducks have 13 points and have lost five in a row, the first game of that streak being a 3-0 loss to Nashville back on Oct. 29.
Tune in Wednesday onight. We might be witnessing the greatest acts of aggression between Nashville and Ducks since Craig Morgan filmed the Grand Ole Opry Hunt. Hopefully things turn out better for Anaheim.