Rangers vs. Islanders and 13 Nasty NHL Rivalries That Will Never Get Old
Rivalries are a huge part of what makes the NHL so much fun to watch.
Teams that don't like each other make for a more intense and more entertaining game full of hard hits, drag 'em-out fights and passionate fans on each side.
There are many factors that go into making a great rivalry. Geographic location is certainly a factor. When two teams are not separated by many miles, their fans interact more and get into a friendly (or not-so-friendly) competition. The fact that teams in the Eastern Conference are located closer together geographically is one reason there are more traditional rivalries in that conference.
Having the two teams play in the same division also helps. It allows them to play against each other more often, and the fact that the teams are competing for first place in the division and one of the top three seeds in the playoffs each year also helps create bad blood between them.
Tradition and a history of playing playoff series against another team also helps. If you play a best-of-seven series against another team. bad blood is more likely to develop (remember the Wings and Avs in the late 1990s and early 2000s). The intensity level is higher in the postseason, more is at stake and playing the same team so many times in a row—well, familiarity often breeds contempt.
With that in mind, here are 13 NHL rivalries that will never get old.
Honorable Mention: The Battle of Quebec: Montreal Canadiens vs. Quebec Nordiques
OK, the Nordiques don't play in the NHL anymore, but I'd be doing a huge disservice to any article about NHL rivalries by not mentioning "The Battle of Quebec" which raged from 1979 until 1995.
The two clubs met five times in the playoffs during those years, with the Habs winning three of the five.
The most infamous took place in 1984 and featured a pair of lengthy brawls in Game 6 of a best-of-seven series. Montreal won the game 5-3 and the series 4-2, but more than 250 penalty minutes were assessed after a bench-clearing brawl that lasted more than 10 minutes.
The two teams were owned by competing beer breweries and represented the two largest cities in La Belle Province. The two teams were also rivals in the old Adams Division which only served to further intensify the rivalry.
There are rumors the NHL will return to Quebec City in the near future. If that occurs, look for the Montreal-Quebec rivalry to be reborn.
13. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers
The Lightning and Panthers represent opposite sides of the state of Florida with the Panthers on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state while the Lightning are closer to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Lightning have been the more successful franchise since entering the NHL in 1992. They won the Stanley Cup in 2004 and have qualified for the playoffs six times.
The Panthers joined the league a year after Tampa Bay, and the two teams have been in the same division since then. Florida has reached the playoffs four times in their history and reached the Stanley Cup Final back in 1996 in just their third season in the league.
For whatever reason, the Panthers have dominated the head-to-head matchup. In fact, the Panthers have a better record against the Bolts than they do against any other team in the NHL.
Attendance at some of these games has been high, including more than 27,000 fans who showed up the first time these two teams played back in 1993.
12. Los Angeles Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks
The Battle of Southern California takes place when the Ducks and Kings take to the ice.
The Ducks represent Anaheim and entered the NHL in 1993 while the Kings entered the NHL with the Second Six in 1967.
Both teams have won one Stanley Cup in their history with Anaheim's coming in 2007 while Los Angeles won in 2012.
Great players who took part in this rivalry include Wayne Gretzky, Teemu Selanne, Jonathan Quick, J.S. Giguere, Anze Kopitar and Paul Kariya.
In 2007, this rivalry was dubbed "The Freeway Faceoff" by fans.
These division rivals have never met in a playoff series but if they do, the rivalry will grow even more intense than it already has been.
11. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
The Penguins and Capitals have an interesting history and a rivalry that is now mostly based on the battle between two star players.
These clubs were both in the Patrick Division from 1981-82 through 1992-93 which helped create the rivalry.
They have also met eight times in the postseason with the Penguins winning seven of those matchups.
In many instances, the Capitals saw large leads disappear including the 1992 series where Pittsburgh overcame a 3-1 series deficit to oust the favored Capitals from the playoffs. In fact, Pittsburgh defeated Washington en route to both their 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup titles.
In recent years, the personal rivalry between superstars Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh and Alex Ovechkin of Washington has re-heated this rivalry. The two players have battled for the title of best player in the game while the two teams met again in the postseason in 2009.
Washington and Pittsburgh also clashed at the 2011 Winter Classic which Washington won 3-1 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
10. Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues
The Blues and Blackhawks have been division rivals since 1970 and bad blood has existed between the two clubs for a long time.
In the 1980s and 1990s, both teams were contenders, and both played a physical style of play that resulted in brawl-filled games and bitter feelings on both sides.
The two franchises have met 10 times in the playoffs with Chicago winning seven of the 10 series matches although St. Louis won the last two meetings in 1993 and 2002.
The most infamous brawl between the two franchises came on March 17, 1991, and came to be known as the St. Patrick's Day Massacre. Glen Featherstone and Jeremy Roenick were involved in the early shoving that led to a big bench-clearing brawl. By the end of the fight, 12 players, six from each team, were ejected from the game.
Both the Hawks and the Blues figure to be contenders this year, so the battle between these two rivals should continue to heat up.
9. New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils
The Rangers and Devils didn't have a great rivalry in the first few years after the Colorado Rockies moved east to become the Devils in 1982, mostly because the Devils were perennial also-rans until the late 1980s.
The two teams play their home games less than 10 miles from each other and play in the same division, which only helps feed the rivalry.
These two neighbors have met six times in the playoffs with the Rangers winning four of them.
The most exciting came in 1994 when the Rangers ousted the Devils in a thrilling Eastern Conference final that went a full seven games.
Stephane Matteau scored the game-winning goal in double overtime of Game 7. The Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1994 while New Jersey won it the following season. This series is chronicled in a new book called, "Battle on the Hudson: The Devils, the Rangers and the NHL's Greatest Series Ever" by Tim Sullivan.
Last year, these two rivals met again in the Eastern Conference final with New Jersey winning the series in six games.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators
The Senators and the Maple Leafs fight "The Battle of Ontario." These two teams also fight for fans, especially in the area surrounding Ottawa since the Leafs are an Original Six team while Ottawa re-entered the league in 1992.
The modern rivalry intensified in 1998 when the Leafs were shifted to the Eastern Conference, and the two teams became division rivals. Both teams were contenders over the better part of the next six years, so the battles became even more intense.
The two clubs met in the playoffs for three straight years from 2000 to 2002 and again in 2004. Toronto won each of those series going 16-8 in the 24 postseason meetings between the clubs.
7. Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The Red Wings and Blackhawks are close geographically and are the only two Original Six teams in the Western Conference. Add the fact that both teams play in the same division and have been successful recently and you have the makings of a solid rivalry.
This rivalry goes back to 1926 and has included great names like Howe, Mikita, Hull, Delvecchio, Lindsay Hall, Esposito, Yzerman, Chelios and Lidstrom.
No two teams have met as often in the regular season as these two ancient rivals.
While Detroit has won more regular-season meetings in this rivalry, Chicago holds an 8-7 advantage in playoff series and won their first ever Stanley Cup title by defeating the Wings back in 1934.
This rivalry is known for its physical style of play, representing the two hard-working Midwestern cities where these teams come from.
6. New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The Rangers and Flyers have been division rivals since 1974 and have met 10 times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Philadelphia owning a 6-4 series edge.
The Flyers' most famous victory came in 1974 when they became the first expansion team to defeat an Original Six club in a series when they ousted the Rangers in seven games in a semifinal series.
In Game 7, Flyers tough guy Dave Schultz won a one-sided fight against Dale Rolfe of the Rangers to set the tone for a 4-3 win. The Flyers went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.
The Rangers' biggest playoff win came in 1983 when the smaller and faster Rangers upset the Flyers in three straight games. The Rangers were coached by Herb Brooks and nicknamed "Smurfs" because they wore blue jerseys and had a lot of shorter players.
Legends like Bobby Clarke, Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert, Bernie Parent, Brad Park, Eric Lindros, Brian Leetch, Bill Barber and Mark Messier have made huge contributions to this rivalry.
The two teams remain fierce foes and met in the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia. Both teams were expecting to be contenders this season although both are off to slow starts.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The Battle of Pennsylvania dates back to 1967 when both the Flyers and the Penguins entered the NHL. Since then, these two teams have developed a rivalry that has only grown more intense over the years.
Simply put, these teams don't like each other, and their fans are enthusiastic and very vocal when it comes to backing their team and demeaning their rivals.
The Flyers have the edge head-to-head during the regular season and have won four-of-six playoff matchups as well including last season's opening round series.
Philadelphia dominated the early years of the rivalry. From 1974 until 1989, the Penguins had a 42-game winless streak at the Spectrum in Philadelphia (0-39-3).
In recent years, however, the series has been more even. Star players in this rivalry include Mario Lemieux, Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, Bernie Parent and Paul Coffey.
4. Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
The Oilers and Flames have been fighting the "Battle of Alberta" since the Atlanta Flames moved north from Atlanta back in 1980.
The 1980s and early 1990s were the height of this rivalry. During this time, Edmonton won five Stanley Cups while Calgary won one and reached the Stanley Cup Final on a second occasion.
The Flames may have been the second-best team in the NHL during that time, but were stuck in a division with the Oilers who were in the midst of the NHL's last great dynasty.
Names like Gretzky, Lowe, Kurri, Coffey, Vernon, McDonald, Fleury, Gilmour and Mullen were in the thick of that competition.
These two teams are in the same division and represent Alberta's provincial capital and largest city. Although neither team is a contender now, the intensity in either arena is raised to a fever pitch when these two teams take to the ice.
3. New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders
The Rangers and Islanders have had one of hockey's most intense rivalries since the Islanders entered the NHL back in 1972.
These two teams have been battling each other for more than 40 years now. There is a big brother-little brother type relationship between these two clubs with the Original Six Rangers representing the big city and tradition while the expansion Islanders represented the suburbs and a new breed.
In 1975, the Islanders shocked the Rangers by eliminating them just 11 seconds in overtime of the third and deciding game of an opening-round playoff series at Madison Square Garden on a goal by J.P. Parise.
Four years later, the Rangers returned the favor and eliminated the heavily favored Islanders in six games on the sensational goaltending of John Davidson.
The Islanders defeated the Rangers in playoff series in 1981, 1982 and 1983 en route to Stanley Cup titles and again in 1984 in a thrilling five-game series won by Ken Morrow's overtime game winner.
The Rangers won a brawl-filled series in 1990 and dominated the Islanders in a four-game sweep in 1994 in the opening round of their Stanley Cup journey.
The teams fans have an intense rivalry and at the Nassau Coliseum, the building is split fairly close to evenly between fans of the two teams.
These two franchises will be even closer together geographically when the Islanders move to Brooklyn in 2015.
2. Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
No rivalry between NHL teams goes back further than the one between the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs. It started back in 1917 and endures to this day.
The two teams have played more than 700 regular-season games and met in the playoffs 15 times with Montreal holding a slim 8-7 margin in series won.
On five occasions, the Habs and Leafs met in the Stanley Cup Final although the last time that happened was in 1967.
These two teams have historically represented English-speaking and French-speaking Canada and have fans well beyond their home cities.
The number of Hall of Famers who played in this series is too long to list, but it includes Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, Syl Apps, Frank Mahovlich, Guy Lafleur, Darryl Sittler, Mats Sundin and Patrick Roy.
These two clubs remain division rivals, and while neither club has been in contention for a championship in recent years, the rivalry remains strong.
1. Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins
The Bruins and Canadiens have met in the postseason 33 times, more than any other teams in NHL history. If you combine regular-season and playoff matches, no two teams have faced off against each other more frequently than the Bruins and Canadiens.
These Original Six foes are in the same division, and the bad blood between the two clubs runs deep.
Hall of Famers who took part in this rivalry include Henri Richard, Bobby Orr, Ken Dryden, Gerry Cheevers, Patrick Roy, Cam Neely, Chris Chelios and Phil Esposito.
These two teams last met in the playoffs in 2011 when the Bruins got past the Habs on their way to their first Stanley Cup win since 1972.
Boston may have won three straight titles from 1970-72 if rookie Ken Dryden wouldn't have helped Montreal pull off a huge upset in 1971.