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Rivalry Week: Hurricanes player nemeses

Who do Canes fans have the most recent to dislike?

NHL: Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: It’s rivalry week at SB Nation, and we’re starting off by looking at some of the Canes’ player tormentors.

Since the Hurricanes arrived in North Carolina in 1997, there have been plenty of players who the mere mention of their name would generate at least a side eye from Canes fans. From devastating hits, to frequent scorers and goalie brick walls, there have been plenty.

We’re going to take a look at a couple of those big hitters, along with the top five scorers and goalie winners against the Hurricanes.

Big Hitters

Scott Stevens

This one goes back a ways, but Stevens was perhaps the original Hurricanes player nemesis. The Hurricanes’ 2001 series against the eventual Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils is remembered as the true “arrival” of hockey in Raleigh, as the Hurricanes rallied from down 3-0 to force a game six, and the fans sent the team into the summer with a standing ovation.

It could also be remembered for the towering defenseman’s hit on two star players. Shane Willis was coming off a promising rookie season, with 20 goals and 44 points. In game two of that series, as Willis went to reach for a loose puck, Stevens nailed him with an at the time, perfectly legal hit.

Willis was concussed, and by all accounts, never the same, as he scored just 11 more goals over two more seasons in the NHL.

In the next game, Stevens laid another massive hit on star Ron Francis along the boards (again, these hits were legal at the time, but would earn a call from the department of player safety today).

Francis was also concussed. What made this hit eventually ironic was that Francis and Stevens were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the same class in 2007.

With those two hits, Stevens certainly earned the ire of Canes fans.

Brooks Orpik

The 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes were an offensive juggernaut. A key cog in that machine was young power forward Erik Cole, who, when the Canes met the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena on March 4, 2006, sat at 30 goals and 59 points.

Unfortunately, that was the last game Cole would play until making a miraculous return in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals. The return was miraculous, because, in the third period of that game, Orpik hit Cole into the boards, earning a boarding major and game misconduct. Cole suffered a broken neck.

While Cole made that return, he didn’t quite reach that level again for several years, until scoring 26 goals for the Hurricanes in 2010-11 and 35 for Montreal in 2011-12.

Orpik earned many a boo in his trips to PNC Arena with Pittsburgh and Washington, and even played the role of villain a couple more times, with this hit on Jeff Skinner in 2012 (Skinner was, fortunately, fine).

He could even join the next section, as he scored the overtime winner against the Hurricanes in game two for the Capitals last year.

Top scorers

1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals 81 games, 43 goals, 52 assists, 95 points

Given that Ovechkin has played at least four games per season against the Hurricanes, this one should not come as a surprise. “Ovi” appears to be well on his way to topping Wayne Gretzky for the lead in all-time goals, so he probably finds himself in this spot for a lot of teams.

2. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers 83 games, 38 goals, 53 assists, 91 points

Another long-time Southeast Division opponent (and briefly a metro foe with the Rangers). Given that St. Louis won multiple Art Ross trophies in his career, this, again, shouldn’t be a surprise. In many a Southeastern Clash, St. Louis seemed to have a key play to make against Carolina.

3. Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings 87 games, 31 goals, 48 assists, 79 points

All of the above applies to Lecavalier as well. St. Louis’ long-time running mate in the Southeast also played against the Canes in the Metro as a member of the Flyers.

4. Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames 61 games, 23 goals, 54 assists, 77 points

It might have been easier to list the teams Jagr didn’t play for. Given that I set the filter to go back to 1997-98, eliminating the Whalers days and Jagr’s Penguins hay day in the early 90s, I’m a little surprised to see him here.

I guess I shouldn’t be, given how prolific he was especially at an early age, and that he spent time in both the Southeast and Metro Division.

5. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals (moment of silence, please), New Jersey Devils 61 games, 37 goals, 37 assists, 74 points

Those that remember the Thrashers days had to see this one coming. Kovalchuk did plenty of damage in his Devils days, even though he left the NHL before the formation of the Metropolitan Division.

Top Goalies

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers 33-12-1, .934 save percentage, 2.00 GAA

If you couldn’t guess this one, I don’t know what to say. The only surprise here for me is that Lundqvist has actually allowed two goals per game to the Hurricanes. The Rangers’ long-time brick wall is a big part of the Canes’ long time woes against the Blueshirts.

2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils 33-15-2-1, .913 save percentage, 2.21 GAA

Brodeur is tied with Lundqvist for the most wins against the Hurricanes in the regular season, but, given the team has sent him packing in the payoffs three times, I’m not sure I’d call him a nemesis.

3. Olie Kolzig, Washington Capitals 26-13-6-1, .921 save percentage, 2.38 GAA

Kolzig had some stellar seasons for the Capitals in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, when the Canes and Caps were regularly duking it out for first place in the Southeast.

4. Jose Theodore, Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild, Florida Panthers 20-13-3-0, .915 save percentage, 2.52

As with Ovechkin, given that Theodore was the last goalie to win the Hart Trophy, he probably makes this list for a lot of teams. Given that he spent much of the tail end of his career in the Southeast Division, he makes sense for the Canes as well.

5. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks 18-9-0-4, .916 save percentage, 2.58 GAA

Like Brodeur, Miller had his regular season success against the Canes, but given the playoff history, I wouldn’t call him a nemesis. The Canes’ recent dominance over Buffalo coincided with Miller’s departure.