There is nothing more significant than rivalry when it comes to sports. The excitement and anticipation that comes when they face off against one another are special for the players and also the fans. Hockey has historic rivalries that hold a special place in the history books, but some of those do not exist in today’s game. Those are buried beneath the surface, and new ones can be born. A rivalry in the making is between the New Jersey Devils and the Carolina Hurricanes. These two teams are currently among the best in the Eastern Conference but have a rich history that brings them together.
Playoff Battles Between the Teams
These two teams have a rich history of meeting in the playoffs. New Jersey had already established itself as an elite contending team, but Carolina was rising. This helped create a great playoff series and paint a picture of the story between these two franchises.
2001 was the first of many playoff meetings between these two teams, which came in a lopsided fashion. The Devils were a powerhouse of a team and in their dynasty-type run. The defending champions were taking on a Hurricanes team that got into the postseason on the final day of the regular season. You’d expect a cakewalk of a series for New Jersey, but Carolina put up a fight. They were down 3-0 in the series and won two games in a row, so putting up an underdog fight was inspiring. However, the Devils won the series in six games, but this was their only successful playoff series win, and the Hurricanes got their sweet revenge.
Shocking the Devils
This was the redemption story for Carolina, and it came in 2002. The Hurricanes made a goalie change from Arturs Irbe to Kevin Weekes, and former captain Ron Francis scored the lone goal. Weekes went on to post a shutout to seal a Game 6 victory on the road, so the goalie change worked perfectly. For the first time in two years, the Devils got sent home in the first round.
Fast forward to 2006, and the Hurricanes went on to dominate the Devils. For the second time in four years, the Hurricanes got the best of Martin Brodeur. Brodeur and the Devils got embarrassed in Game 1, as he also got pulled from the game. It was the least competitive of any series they’ve played, as the Hurricanes outscored the Devils 17-10. Carolina was in a different spot than New Jersey, and the power shift was evident. The Devils were entering the end of an era, whereas the Hurricanes were entering a championship-contending window. Furthermore, they went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2006. As great as this playoff victory was, shocking the entire state of New Jersey made for one epic playoff moment.
The series between these two teams in 2009 was the longest in their rich playoff history. This first-round series went to seven games, and two were blowout victories (Game 1 and Game 6). The biggest shock came in 2009 and in one of the most dramatic endings to a series for the Hurricanes franchise. Carolina was down 3-2 in the game with 80 seconds left and managed to beat Brodeur twice to win the game. Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal scored the goals and helped send the team to the second round. For the third time in seven years, the Hurricanes got the best of the Devils in the playoffs.
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The history between these two teams is rich, and history repeated itself 14 years later.
Meeting at the Dance Once Again
For the first time since 2009, the Devils and the Hurricanes met in the postseason. These two teams met in the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Hurricanes took this series in a convincing five games. Like the series in 2006, this one was not nearly as competitive, as a more experienced team defeated a team with none.
Given the current playoff format and the contention status of these two teams, there will be more meaningful hockey to be played against one another in the future. Furthermore, this could be the birth of a new rivalry within the Metropolitan Division.
Current State of the Rivalry
The birth of a new rivalry between these two teams is in the making. The Hurricanes have been a perennial contender for the last five years, but the Devils are on their heels. Furthermore, New Jersey finished one point behind Carolina in the division, so the fight for the Metropolitan Division throne was in full swing. In addition, the teams split their season series winning two games each. Both teams were among the best at 5v5 last season and have a similar playing style. What makes these teams great against one another is their ability to defend and perform on the penalty kill. However, there is more to this newborn rivalry.
Both teams show no signs of slowing down and will only be competitive going forward. The Devils just saw their window crack open and are looking to build off a historic season in their 40-year history. Devils general manager (GM) Tom Fitzgerald has his core group locked up for the rest of this decade, and Hurricanes GM Don Waddell has built a roster that is a Stanley Cup favorite.
Given the strength of their rosters, these two teams will be fighting for the top spot in the Metro for the foreseeable future, as games against one another will be intense and meaningful. Given how good both of these teams are, a fresh new rivalry between the two will occur.