There's been some debate as to whether the New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Peguins are actual rivals. I would honestly have to say yes, considering the two teams always fight for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and even though the Devils swept the 2009-2010 season series with the Penguins, 6-0-0. There will be some interesting division showdowns along the road this year for these two teams.
Some players recently gave their opinions as to whether or not the Devils and Pens can be considered true rivals.
Jamie Langenbrunner of the Devils commented: "I think you need to have a playoff series against each other to build a rivalry. In the regular season, you develop a certain amount of battle. The playoffs magnify that a lot. You're seeing each other, 6-7 nights in a row, and you get that you're-ending-someone's-season mentality. You both have to be competitive and you're battling a team for the ultimate goal: a championship."
Langenbrunner supplies good reasoning there. However, a couple of playoff matchups is the only thing missing from the Penguins/Devils rivalry. In my opinion, playoff series are huge in rivalries, but also, close division finishes can also fuel a rivalry.
Sidney Crosby of the Penguins had a different perspective on the rivalry, "I think our games with the Devils this season have built a rivalry. I don't think it's at that point with the way it's with Philadelphia or Washington because history kind of allows for those things to develop. But I think with New Jersey, just over the course of the year, you could sense that the games have gotten more intense, more emotional, and that's not a bad thing."
Crosby brings up some good points. Even though the Devils swept the season series 6 to 0, the games were all intense due to trying to win the division and getting the better playoff spot. Some of the games were close, with Marty Brodeur standing on his head against the Pens. Brodeur finished the year with a 6-0-0 record, a 0.83 GAA (Goals Against Average) and an incredible .973 Save Percentage. When your goalie steps up like that, you know it's a big game.
Dainius Zubris of the Devils offered a different perspective than that of his teammate Langenbrunner, "It's a good team and a good rivalry and we've had good games against them," he said, "they have a lot of skilled players so you have to play well. Guys get up for those games; it's kind of a measuring stick for us."
This proves what I said about Brodeur. His stats against the Penguins tell the tale of how the players get up for the huge games, like Brodeur has done.
Watching another Penguins and Devils chase should be fun this year, and if I had to make a prediction, I would say the season series will even out at 3 games apiece this year, as the Penguins fiery souls will fuel themselves against their rivals, as will the Devils. Should be fun to watch.