By the time game 4 rolled around in round 1, the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens despised each other. Eric Gryba squashing Lars Eller kicked it off, and the war of words between the clubs that followed culminated in game 3′s absolute destruction of the Habs at the hands of the Senators both on the scoreboard and in the alleys after Montreal instigated a line brawl.
Not only did that series pour gas on the flames that is the rivalry between the Habs and Sens, but created a hatred between the clubs and their fan bases.
That spark, at least so far, has not been ignited in the same manner. From an Ottawa perspective, most of the hatred that I have heard has been directed at CBC’s coverage of the series or the officiating that has been sub-par.
Yes, there is the omni-present distaste for Sidney Crosby that bubbles forever just below the surface, but not really the hatred along the lines of the Montreal hatred that sprung up a couple of weeks ago. The Matt Cooke factor is still present, and his high stick to the face of Erik Karlsson raised the ire of Senators fans but the Sens have kept their emotions in check.
The verbal jabs seem to have started in the wake of Brooks Orpik shoving an off-balance Chris Neil into the end boards late in Sunday’s Ottawa victory. While Neil didn’t come back, he practiced Tuesday and had some words after practice for the incident:
If he was in that situation I probably wouldn’t have shoved him there..so..but…you know, it is what it is. That’s, you know, the way he plays. He plays a physical game and I don’t expect anything less from him.
When asked for a response, Orpik had some choice words of his own:
My response is that was very laughable, coming from him. Everybody knows how he plays and he is out there to agitate and I don’t have much to say about it. He gets away with a lot, lets put it that way.
So, while not exactly calling “disrespect” or “bug-eyed, fat walrus”, the emotions might be starting to simmer. Quite frankly, with this being the 4th time in the last 7 seasons, I am surprised that it hasn’t become more of a rivalry. There is still time, and if Ottawa can make it a best of 3 with a win on Wednesday, then the hate might just come to the surface as the Penguins may get frustrated at having the first and second rounds both go at least 6 games.