BOSTON - There might not be very much familiarity between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins, but there is plenty of contempt.
The first three games of the series featured hitting, trash talking and scrums after the whistle and the players weren't expecting that to change in Game 4. Even though the teams met just once during the regular season, there is clearly no love lost between them.
"Their guys (have been) pushing and shoving after the whistle and flexing their muscles and proving how big and bad they are," Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said Wednesday morning. "We're the top hitting team in the league so we're going to punish during the whistles and let them do that stuff after.
"The finger-point and all that stuff is getting really old really quick—when you're the sixth guy to do it I don't think it's that funny any more."
NHL vice-president Mike Murphy issued a warning to the teams between games to cut out the taunting. The referees have been instructed to issue a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty and 10-minute misconduct to any player caught pointing his finger at an opponent.
That started happening after Vancouver's Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron's finger in Game 1. Maxim Lapierre playfully extended his finger towards Bergeron's mouth in Game 2 and Bruins forwards Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic responded with similar acts in Game 3.
There was also the dangerous hit Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome laid on Nathan Horton that took both men out of the series. Horton has a concussion while Rome was suspended four games—a record for the Stanley Cup final.
It usually takes some time for teams in different conferences to build a hate for one another, but this series has been running hot from the get-go.
"Everybody wants to win so bad," said Bruins forward David Krejci. "They're doing everything they can to make our life miserable. We are doing the same thing. That's how you create a hate against each other."
Added Boston defenceman Johny Boychuk: "The other team is trying to take away what you've dreamed of doing all your life."
Only five minor penalties were called when the teams played a rather tame regular-season game in February. In Game 3 on Monday night, referees Stephen Walkom and Dan O'Rourke handed out eight 10-minute misconducts in the third period alone.
When asked about the warning issued by the NHL, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault pointed his finger at the Bruins.
"All year long we've played whistle to whistle," said Vigneault. "That hasn't changed in this series. All the referees have to do is call the ones who initiate the scrums. That's going to stop right there."
Bruins coach Claude Julien has been outspoken about some of the on-ice antics during the final and scolded Recchi and Lucic for their actions in Game 3. He thinks it's important the teams put on a good performance in the NHL's showcase event.
"I think there's been some pretty exciting hockey, when you look at the physicality of the game, the goals that have been scored, how both teams are just putting everything on the line," said Julien. "I think we need to focus more on that than the other stuff that's been making headlines there. I don't think we need that in our sport."