The new realignment for the NHL has different effects on not only every team, but every match-up as well. Each team will play everyone in their own conference five or six times, but will play each team from the other three conferences only twice. Due to the fact that divisions and conferences will be split up, and that the first two rounds of the playoffs will be intra-conference only, many great rivalries in today's league will lose their significance.
Boston and Philadelphia are two classic American cities with rich sports histories. The Bruins and Flyers are the past two Eastern Conference Champions and have played each other in the playoffs each year. In 2010, they participated in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park and battled in a playoff series that resulted in the Flyers coming back from a 3-0 series deficit several months later. However, they will only play each other twice next season and cannot face each other in the playoffs until at least the third round.
There is a lot of history between these two. Two Original Six teams from arguably the two biggest rival cities in sports. Unfortunately, hockey fans will only see them twice in the regular season next year.
They are somewhat on opposite ends of the spectrum right now, but Montreal and New York are two cities with rich hockey histories. The rivalry has not been as prominent in recent years, but it is still a historic Original Six matchup.
Another historic Original Six rivalry that will see its games cut in half next season.
Although it has not been as prominent recently, I have always considered this matchup a rivalry after the classic playoff battles between these two series in the early 2000s.
A historic and bitter rivalry never truly formed out of the Southeast Division, but this was probably the closest there was based on the competitiveness of last season and the playoff series that took place.
This rivalry has definitely died down, but the fact that these two battled in the playoffs six times in seven seasons from 1997 to 2003 has always made it significant to me.
The Stars are losing their rivalry with every team in the Pacific Division, but this one sticks out to me more than the others. San Jose and Dallas have provided for some terrific regular season contests over the past fifteen years and several decent playoff series including an instant classic in 2008.
In 1994, the eighth-seeded Sharks shocked the hockey world with a seven game upset of the top-seeded Wings. The Red Wings gained revenge in the 1995 playoffs and the rivalry somewhat faded away. They faced each other in 2007 and 2010, but the historic 2011 Western Conference Semi-Final between these two teams cemented this rivalry's place in hockey history.
There have been five playoff series between these two in the past fifteen years, and each one seems to get more gritty. These teams clearly do not like each other; every game between them seems to have a little extra aggression.
Heck of a picture, eh?
This rivalry went from nothing to possibly the greatest rivalry in hockey in three years. The 2011 Western Conference Quarter-Final was the third playoff series in three years between Chicago and Vancouver. They have combined for nineteen of a possible twenty-one playoff games since 2009, and the winner of this series each of the past two years has gone on to become the Western Conference Champion. Last year's playoff series was one of the greatest in recent history and took this rivalry to another level.
Something else that distinguishes this rivalry from others is the amount of verbal comments that players and coaches have shot at each other through the media. Dan Carcillo, Dave Bolland and Alain Vigneault have all given their two cents about their disdain for their rivals.
Unfortunately, both of these teams will have to reach at least the third round to face each other in the playoffs due to the realignment.
Minnesota will be losing every rivalry within the Northwest Division, but this is the most significant in my opinion. Both times that the Wild have made the playoffs in their history, they have faced the Avalanche. Also, these games always seem to be extra-physical and competitive.
No hockey fan will forget the bloody battles that took place between these two in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although both teams went in opposite directions after the lockout, the classic series between them while they dominated the league caused this to be arguably the greatest rivalry in sports at the time.