NHL: Breaking Down the Devils-Flyers Rivalry
Some people refer to it as “The Turnpike Rivalry.”
Imagine the state of New Jersey and the geographic fanbases of the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils as a venn diagram. North Jersey is predominantly Devils (and Rangers) fans. South Jersey, where Philadelphia has its practice facility, is Flyers country. Central NJ is where the two circles intersect, setting the scene for regional bragging rights year after year.
As recent as the second game of the 2013 season, the Devils and Flyers have demonstrated that they do not like each other. In a 3-0 Devils win, the Flyers' Wayne Simmonds cross-checked Martin Brodeur, and predictable chaos ensued.
It is a classic division rivalry with familiarity, close proximity and a chippy edge to boot. The two teams have met in the playoffs five times. In all but one of those series, the lower seed went on to advance.
The next page in the rivalry is written Friday night when the Flyers ride up I-95 to Newark. Philadelphia can get back to .500 with a win. The Devils will look to make it six straight wins against the Flyers, including the playoffs.
Let’s break down the history of the rivalry as we prepare for Friday night.
1995 Eastern Conference Finals
The first playoff meeting between the foes, the No. 5-seeded Devils defeated the No. 2-seeded Flyers in six games on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
It was a year of Flyers' resurgence, but the Devils got the best of them and started a dynasty.
2000 Eastern Conference Finals
Five years later, the two teams met again in the Eastern Conference Finals. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that the Flyers stole the division crown during a late-season Devils' slump.
Again the Devils won the series and eventually the Cup. This time Philadelphia blew a three game to one lead. It was Eric Lindros' last time in a Flyers uniform.
Speaking of Eric Lindros...
Scott Stevens vs. Eric Lindros
It was never meant to be for these two.
Scott Stevens was the hard-hitting, fear-inducing defenseman. Eric Lindros was the physical power forward who didn't mind getting his nose dirty. They were bound to collide, and when they did, there were no pulled punches, literally.
This was their first bout in 1993. There is no other way to describe it: Lindros puts a licking on Stevens.
As the two got to know each other, such behavior continued. It was tough to get through 60 minutes of hockey without these two at least exchanging words. In game seven of the 2000 series, the final blow was dealt.
Dirty or clean, Lindros was never the same after that hit. Scott Stevens was not called for a penalty. In that era, refs pretty much put the whistle away in the playoffs.
If that goes down in 2013? Stevens heads right for the box and receives a possible fine, maybe even a suspension.
Eric Lindros played with guts throughout his career. You don't see talent with a mean streak like that anymore. If only he learned to keep his head up.
2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
The Flyers finally got the best of their rivals in the 2004 playoffs, knocking off the defending champs decisively in five games.
Philly fans might remember Robert Esche with a big shut-out in game four that crushed the Devils' spirit and all but sealed the series.
2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
The next playoff meeting took just five games for the Flyers as well.
This time Philadelphia was the No. 7 seed and upset the favored Devils. It easily could have been a sweep. Led by former captain Mike Richards, the Flyers looked like the old Broad Street bullies. They physically imposed their will on New Jersey, specifically Zach Parise.
Philly went all the way to the finals that year only to lose to the Chicago Blackhawks.
2012 Eastern Conference Semifinal
The Flyers were heavily favored in this series. They had just come off a series in which they dismantled the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team expected by many to win the Stanley Cup.
Meanwhile, the Devils took seven games to dispose of the Florida Panthers, a team lucky to earn a playoff spot in a weak division. After squeezing by, the Devils were expected to meet their fate against a hot Flyers team.
After losing game one, New Jersey revved its engines and won the next four games. The Devils physically dominated the Flyers, especially below the goal line. This series saw the emergence of the Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier line. Ilya Bryzgalov was awful. The Flyers were left beaten and confused, and the Devils marched to the final before losing to Los Angeles.
Kovalchuk Fights Schenn
Folks, this right here is why I don't want to see fighting eradicated from the game of hockey.
The enforcer role needs to go, no question. Quit the pointless fighting, it's a cheap gimmick.
But the aspect of players policing themselves is unique to hockey and part of the intricate fabric of the game.
Watch as Zach Rinaldo slew-foots Zach Parise. Ilya Kovalchuk, a sniper with a visor who doesn't fight, takes exception and goes after Rinaldo. Brayden Schenn, tough guy that he is, steps in for Rinaldo, and the dance begins.
That is real leadership from Kovalchuk. He caught him clean, too. Also observe the way Kovalchuk tosses Schenn like a rag doll in the beginning. Strong dude.
This is the theater that sums up the Devils-Flyers rivalry. We can expect another firecracker Friday night.