National Hockey League rivalries
Rivalries in the National Hockey League have occurred between many teams and cities. Rivalries have arisen for many different reasons, the primary ones including geographic proximity, familiarity with opponents, on-ice incidents, and cultural, linguistic, or national pride.
The importance of these various factors has varied widely throughout the history of the league.
- 1 Early history
- 2 Eastern Conference
- 2.1 Atlantic Division
- 2.1.1 Battle of Ontario: Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- 2.1.2 Governor's Cup: Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
- 2.1.3 Boston Bruins vs. Buffalo Sabres
- 2.1.4 Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
- 2.1.5 Buffalo Sabres vs. Montreal Canadiens
- 2.1.6 Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators
- 2.1.7 Battle of the QEW: Buffalo Sabres vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- 2.1.8 Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- 2.1.9 Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- 2.1.10 Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings
- 2.2 Metropolitan Division
- 2.2.1 Battle of New York: New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers
- 2.2.2 Battle of the Keystone State: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
- 2.2.3 Battle of the Hudson River: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers
- 2.2.4 Battle of the Jersey Turnpike: New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers
- 2.2.5 Battle of the Broads: (Broadway vs. Broad Street) New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
- 2.2.6 New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
- 2.2.7 New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals
- 2.2.8 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington Capitals
- 2.2.9 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
- 2.3 Interdivisional
- 2.1 Atlantic Division
- 3 Western Conference
- 3.1 Central Division
- 3.2 Pacific Division
- 3.3 Interdivisional
- 4 Interconference rivalries
- 5 Historical
- 5.1 Battle of New England: Boston Bruins vs. Hartford Whalers
- 5.2 Battle of Quebec: Montreal Canadiens vs. Quebec Nordiques
- 5.3 Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets (original)
- 5.4 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota North Stars
- 5.5 Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings
- 5.6 Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings
- 5.7 Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets (original)
- 5.8 Montreal Canadiens vs. Montreal Maroons
- 5.9 New York Americans vs. New York Rangers
- 5.10 New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
- 5.11 Vancouver Canucks vs. Winnipeg Jets (original)
- 6 See also
- 7 References
During the earliest days of the NHL, the league was limited strictly to Central Canada, and all cities in the league were in close proximity, making for bitter rivalries all around. In addition, Montreal had two teams representing its English-French divide, as the "French" Canadiens battled the "English" Wanderers (and later the Maroons). Rivalries also existed with other leagues, such as the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. It was not until 1926 that the NHL took sole ownership of the Stanley Cup. By that time, the league began expanding into the United States, and new rivalries were created. Rapid expansion into the U.S. for a short time created a cross-town rivalry in New York City between the New York Rangers and New York Americans. The economic turmoil of the Great Depression and World War II, however, forced several teams to fold, with the result that by 1942 the NHL consisted of only 6 teams.
Original Six rivalries
From 1942–1967, only 6 teams (the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs) played in the NHL. With so few opponents, teams played more frequently, and games were often underscored by personal rivalries between players. These personal and team rivalries lasted for many years, as the turnover rate on NHL rosters was very low. At one point or another, during this era, all the teams had animosity towards one another.
The current Atlantic Division was formed in 1974 as the Adams Division, which beginning in 1981 had all its teams in Eastern Canada and New England with the exception of the Buffalo Sabres, which were in Upstate New York. The division became the Northeast Division in 1993, and then the Atlantic Division in 2013.
Battle of Ontario: Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Battle of Ontario is a rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. The teams compete in the same division and meet frequently during regular season games and Stanley Cup playoffs.
Governor's Cup: Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning are both teams located within the state of Florida along Interstate 75, representing different geographical areas within the state. The two teams have played in the same division since 1993 (Atlantic Division from 1993–98, Southeast Division from 1999–2013, and the new Atlantic Division since 2013). Despite the Lightning outperforming the Panthers in many ways, including winning the Stanley Cup, the Panthers hold a dominating series record of 55–28–10–7, the best record the Panthers have against any team in the NHL. These two teams have never faced each other in the playoffs.
Prior to the 2013–14 season, it was announced that the two teams would compete to win the "Governor's Cup". The team who earns the most points in head-to-head matchups is awarded a trophy in recognition of their regular-season series win. If the teams finish the season with equal points earned in games against one another, the first tiebreaker is goal difference in those games.
Boston Bruins vs. Buffalo Sabres
The Bruins and Sabres have had a strong rivalry since the Sabres joined the NHL back in 1970. These teams have met in the playoffs eight times with the Bruins winning the first five meetings in 1982, 1983, 1988, 1989, and 1992. Their 1983 series was most memorable when in game 7 of the Adams Division final, Brad Park scored the winning goal at 1:52 of sudden death overtime. The Sabres would finally be victorious in 1993, when they swept the Bruins in the opening round on Brad May's famous "May Day" goal called by long time Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret. In 1999, the Sabres beat the Bruins in six games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the Dallas Stars in six games on Brett Hull's controversial goal. The teams met in the opening round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Sabres, who won the Northeast Division with 100 points and were seeded 3rd in the Eastern Conference, were upset by the 6th seeded Bruins in six games.
For fifteen seasons, these two teams were the only American teams in the Northeast Division. This changed in 2013–14 when Detroit, Florida and Tampa Bay joined the newly renamed Atlantic Division.
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
The Bruins–Canadiens rivalry is considered by former Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin to be "one of the greatest rivalries in sports," along with the Yankees–Red Sox rivalry, Bears–Packers rivalry, and Lakers–Celtics rivalry. The two teams have played each other more times, in both regular season play and the playoffs, than any other two teams in NHL history.
As of the 2014–15 season, the Bruins have won 264 of these matches, scoring a total of 1,916 goals against the Canadiens, with the Canadiens winning 351 of them, scoring a total of 2,194 goals against the Bruins, with 103 other games between the two teams ending in ties, all before the 2004–05 NHL lockout's rule changes mandated the "shootout" format to break such tie games, going back all the way to the Bruins' first NHL season of 1924–25. In the playoffs, the two teams have met in 34 series for a total of 171 games, 11 series and some 54 more games than two other Original 6 teams, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs. The two teams have faced each other 9 times in Game sevens, more times than any other opponents in NHL history.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens and Sabres have been rivals since the Sabres joined the NHL in 1970. The teams have met in the playoffs seven times with Montreal winning in 1973, 1990, 1991, and 1993; while Buffalo came out on top in 1975, 1983, and 1998. Their 1993 playoff series would mark the one and only playoff meeting between the NHL's top two goaltenders at the time; Patrick Roy of Montreal and Grant Fuhr of Buffalo. The Canadiens swept the series by winning every game by a score 4-3 en route to their 24th and most recent Stanley Cup. In 1998, the Sabres became the first team in NHL history to complete a four game sweep of the Canadiens on Montreal ice.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators
The Sabres and Senators have had a strong rivalry since after the 2004–05 NHL lockout, when both teams were vying for the Northeast Division title. Ottawa generally had the upper hand on Buffalo during regular season games, but Buffalo usually beat them in the playoffs. The best-known game in this rivalry occurred on February 22, 2007, which included a large fight that included both goaltenders and verbal sparring between the two coaches (Buffalo won the game 6–5). The teams have met 4 times in the playoffs, with Buffalo winning three series, and Ottawa winning one. Ottawa also beat Buffalo in the final game of the 1996–97 season to make the playoffs for the first time since entering the league.
Battle of the QEW: Buffalo Sabres vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The rivalry between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs is due to the close proximity of the two cites and their connection via the Queen Elizabeth Way freeway. The distance from the south end, the First Niagara Center from downtown Buffalo, New York, and the north end, the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto are 89 miles (145 kilometers) from each other. Since the 1998–99 season, both teams have played in the Northeast Division, now the Atlantic Division.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
While the Toronto-Montreal rivalry is one of the most famous in sport, the rivalry with the Red Wings was no less intense. This rivalry dates to the 1920s. As of 1997, they had had twenty-three playoff meetings, five in the finals. So fierce was the rivalry that when the Rangers reached the finals against Detroit in 1950, but could not play in their home rink, Madison Square Garden, because the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were in town, they arranged to play home games in Toronto, whose fans hated the Wings. The rivalry heightened to a fever pitch due to an incident in the 1950 playoffs when Detroit's young star, Gordie Howe, mistimed a check on Toronto's Ted Kennedy and fell head-first into the boards, suffering severe injuries and needed emergency surgery to save his life. While Kennedy was exonerated by the NHL, Detroit management and fans accused him of deliberately injuring Howe. The result was a violent playoff series and increased animosity between the teams. The teams' proximity to each other – Toronto and Detroit are approximately 240 miles (380 km) apart, mainly using Ontario Highway 401 – and a number of shared fans (particularly in markets such as Windsor, Ontario) added to the rivalry. After the Leafs moved to the Eastern Conference in 1998, they faced each other less often, and the rivalry was more often found in the stands than on the ice.
The rivalry became an intradivisional rivalry for the first time in fifteen seasons in the 2013–14 season when the Red Wings moved into the Eastern Conference, sharing their division with the Maple Leafs. The 2014 NHL Winter Classic was played between the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on January 1, 2014.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Canadiens–Maple Leafs rivalry is the oldest in NHL history. From 1944–78, the two teams met each other in the playoffs 15 times, and faced off in five Stanley Cup Finals. While the on-ice competition is fierce, the Leafs-Habs rivalry is symbolic of the rivalry between Canada's two largest cities: Toronto and Montreal, and by extension its two major linguistic groups, anglophones and francophones.
Notably, the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs have won the most Stanley Cups in the NHL, with 24 and 13, respectively. As a result of their success, they have the two largest fanbases in the entire league – both teams have an influx of visiting fans in their home arenas when they play each other.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings
This rivalry started in the '50s when they were fighting for the top spot in the NHL. The Red Wings would defeat the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals 3 times in 4 years. Including a sweep in 1952 as part of Detroit's perfect postseason run. The Canadiens would finally get revenge on the Red Wings in 1956 as they would win five straight Stanley cups from 1956 to 1960 after the revenge. Both teams were playoff contenders for many years until the late '60s. They would stay in the same division until 1980–81 season. When the Red Wings moved to the Norris division, the Rivalry died for many years to come until the 2013–14 season, when the Red Wings moved to the Eastern conference and in the Atlantic Division.
The basic structure of the Metropolitan Division dates to the 1974 formation of the Patrick Division, which from 1981 onwards would have all its teams in the Mid-Atlantic States. It became the Atlantic Division in 1993, and then the Metropolitan Division in 2013.
Battle of New York: New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers
The Rangers-Islanders rivalry, also unofficially known as the "Battle of New York," is unique among New York City's major league sports, as the Rangers and Islanders are in the same conference and division, guaranteeing plenty of matchups as well as National Basketball Association's teams Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks. Major League Baseball's New York Yankees and New York Mets are in different leagues, as are the National Football League's New York Jets and New York Giants, so the only meeting opportunities are during inter-league or championship games. The games are often characterized by more fights in the stands than on the ice. The New York Islanders came in as the "step sister" of the NY Rangers, but they have won 4 Stanley Cups and have become a good threat turning into a good rivalry for the battle of NY.
Battle of the Keystone State: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Battle of Pennsylvania, which is the Philadelphia Flyers–Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry, began in 1967 when the teams were introduced into the NHL's "Next Six" expansion wave. The rivalry exists due to divisional alignment and geographic location, as both teams play in the state of Pennsylvania. The Flyers lead the series 138–87–30. However, the Penguins have eliminated the Flyers from the playoffs in 2008 and 2009, strengthening the rivalry. In their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup, the rivalry strengthened with several on- and off-ice incidents, resulting in suspensions and fines. Philadelphia took a 3–0 series lead, the Penguins won the next 2 games, only to lose the series to the Flyers in Game 6.
Battle of the Hudson River: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers
The Devils–Rangers rivalry, exists between two teams in the New York metropolitan area. The two teams are called "cross-river rivals." This is because Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan, where the Rangers play, is less than ten miles and across the Hudson River from the Prudential Center in downtown Newark (and previously, the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford), the home arena of the Devils. Travel between both arenas is easily accomplished by road (usually through the Lincoln Tunnel), rapid transit (on the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train) and rail (along the Northeast Corridor). The teams have met 6 times in the playoffs; the Rangers won 4 times.
Battle of the Jersey Turnpike: New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The rivalry between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers is very intense in New Jersey itself, sometimes being referred to as the "Battle of the Jersey Turnpike." Devils supporters reside mostly in the northern part of the state, while the southern part is dominated by Flyers fans due to South Jersey's close proximity to Philadelphia. The Flyers practice in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, and since their Stanley Cup championships of 1974 and 1975, many members of those Cup-winning teams (as well as other Flyers alumni) have lived in South Jersey. Since the conferences were realigned and renamed prior to the 1993–94 season, the two teams have won the two highest numbers of division titles (the Devils 9, the Flyers 6). Together, the two teams' 15 division championships account for almost all of the 18 total Atlantic Division titles.
Battle of the Broads: (Broadway vs. Broad Street) New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers–Rangers rivalry is one of the most well-known of the league. They have met 11 times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Flyers winning 6 times, and have been division rivals since the 1974–75 season.
There is a long-standing bitter rivalry between the sports fans from New York City and Philadelphia, which are approximately two hours apart by car, also seen in the Mets–Phillies rivalry in Major League Baseball and Eagles–Giants rivalry in the National Football League. Games between the two teams at Madison Square Garden and Wells Fargo Center are often very intense, hard-hitting affairs, as each home crowd does its best to create an unfriendly, sometimes volatile atmosphere for any visiting-team fans.
New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Islanders and Penguins have been rivals since the 1970s. These two teams have met in the playoffs four times, with the Islanders winning the first three playoff series and the Penguins winning the fourth series in six games. In 1975, the Penguins lead their playoff series against the Islanders three games to none. But the Islanders came back to win the next four games to take the series in seven games, becoming only the second team in sports history (after the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942) to win a playoff series after trailing three games to none. In 1982, the Islanders and Penguins met in the opening round of the playoffs. The Isles were the two time defending Stanley Cup champions and appeared to be on their way to the second round after winning the first two games at home outscoring the Pens 15–3. But when the series moved to Pittsburgh, the Pens showed that they were a different team on their home ice, as they avoided elimination by winning the next two games at home, sending the series back to Long Island. At home for the 5th and deciding game, the Islanders trailed 3-1 late in the 3rd period with 5:27 to go in the game. Just as it appeared that the Islanders two-year reign was going to come to an end, Mike McEwen scored to cut the Penguins lead to 3–2. Still trailing late in the period, exactly three minutes after McEwen's goal, John Tonelli scored a goal to tie the game and sent it to overtime. At 6:19 of the extra session, Tonelli scored the game winner to complete the comeback, giving the Islanders a 4–3 victory and a 3–2 series win. This scare by Pittsburgh would serve as a wake up call to the Islanders, who would lose just two more games the rest of the way en route to their third straight Stanley Cup, the Penguins however would not return to the playoffs again until 1989, the fifth year of the Mario Lemieux era. In 1993, the teams met the Patrick Division final. The Penguins were the two time defending Stanley Cup champions and in search of their third straight title. They had won the Presidents' Trophy with 119 points and were coming off a five game win over the New Jersey Devils in the opening round. Meanwhile the Islanders who finished the season with 87 points, 32 behind Pittsburgh, were coming off a six game win over the Washington Capitals in the opening round. But the win came at a price, Pierre Turgeon suffered a separated shoulder on a vicious check by Washington's Dale Hunter after scoring a goal late in the deciding game. The teams split the first four games before the Pens won game 5 by a score of 6–3. Faced with elimination, the Islanders won game 6 at home by a score of 7–5. In game 7, the Islanders lead 3–1 late in the third period when Ron Francis scored to cut the lead to 3–2. Then, with one minute left in the game, Rick Tocchet scored to force sudden death overtime. Then at 5:16 of overtime, David Volek, who was a healthy scratch often during the regular season, scored the series winning goal, ending the Penguins chances at a threepeat. On February 11, 2011, the Pens and Isles engaged in a vicious brawl. In the game, (which the Islanders won 9–3) the teams combined for 65 penalties, which included 15 fighting majors and 21 game misconducts, resulting in a combined total of 346 penalty minutes. The two teams met in the opening round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Penguins coming out on top in six games.
New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals
This rivalry dated back to the 1979–80 season when the Capitals joined the Patrick Division. These two teams have met in the playoffs eight times with each team winning four series apiece. In 1986, the teams met in the playoffs for the first time in history when they faced each other in the Patrick Division final. The Capitals, who had their best regular season in franchise history (until 2009) winning 50 games and recording 107 points ousted the New York Islanders in a three game sweep. Meanwhile, the Rangers who finished 29 points back of the Capitals with 78 points eliminated the first place Philadelphia Flyers in five games. The teams split the first four games before the Rangers took games five and six to win the series in six games. The Rangers cinderella season came to an end when they were defeated in the Wales Conference Final in five games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens. In 1990, the two teams met again in the Patrick Division Final, the Rangers who won their first division title since 1942 with 85 points eliminated their crosstown rivals the Islanders in five games, while the Capitals who finished with 78 points defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games. In the opener, Bernie Nicholls recorded a hat trick in the Rangers 7–3 victory. The Capitals won game two by a score of 6–3 to even the series, but the win came with a price. Dino Ciccarelli suffered a knee injury and would miss the remainder of the playoffs. When the series moved to Washington for the next two games, the Capitals dominated the rest of the series. Washington won game three by a score of 7–1, but in game four, overtime would be needed. Rod Langway, who did not score a goal during the regular season, scored the winner to give the Capitals a 4–3 victory and a 3–1 series lead. Back in New York for game five, overtime was needed again when John Druce scored the series winning goal to give the Capitals a 2–1 victory and a 4–1 series win. This series win sent the Capitals to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. Unfortunately for the Capitals, they were swept in four straight games by the first place overall Boston Bruins. In 1991, the two teams met again in the playoffs, this time in the opening round. The Rangers won the opener 2–1, but the Capitals evened the series with a 3–0 victory in game two. When the series moved to Washington, the Rangers took game three with a 6–0 victory. In the end, the Capitals would take the next three games to take the series in six games. Unfortunately for the Capitals, they were defeated in the following round in five games by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. In the 1991–92 season, the Rangers and Capitals finished with the top two records in the NHL that season. But they both fell in the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins on their way to their second straight Stanley Cup. In 1994, they met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Rangers who finished first overall with 112 points, swept their crosstown rivals the New York Islanders in the opening round. The Capitals who finished with 88 points, upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. The Rangers dominated the series by winning the first three games. After the Capitals won game four, the Rangers came right back to take the series in five games on their way to their first Stanley Cup since 1940. After the Capitals drafted Alexander Ovechkin, the team frequently met the Rangers in the playoffs, with four confrontations in five years between 2009 and 2013, each team taking two: the Capitals won in 2009 and 2011, while the Rangers came out on top in 2012 and 2013.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington Capitals
The Flyers and Capitals have been rivals through the 1980s, dating back to their days in the Patrick Division. In 1984, Mike Gartner lead the Capitals to a three-game sweep of the Flyers in the opening round of the playoffs for the Capitals first ever playoff series victory, and in the process ending the careers of Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber, the last two players of the Broad Street Bullies era. In 1988, the Capitals trailed the Flyers three games to one in the opening round of the playoffs. Washington would rally to win the next three games to take the series in seven games capped off by Dale Hunter's overtime goal in game seven. The following year, Tim Kerr and Ron Hextall helped the Flyers take down the division champions Capitals. In the 2000s the rivalry was reignited by the rebirth of the Alexander Ovechkin-led Capitals, whom the Flyers eliminated in 2008. Since the league-wide realignment in 2013, the rivalry between the teams has started to intensify. During a regular season game in 2013, there was an all out line brawl within the two teams. Washington would win the game 7–0.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
The Pittsburgh Penguins–Washington Capitals rivalry was an inter-division rivalry from 1994 to 2013, and intradivisional the other seasons. In total, the two teams have met eight times in the playoffs. Despite trailing in 7 of the 8 series, Pittsburgh has won all but the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals where they were heavily favored. The teams first met in the 1991 Patrick Division Finals, when the Penguins defeated the Capitals in 5 en route to capturing the Stanley Cup. The rivalry was intense during the early 2000s when the Penguins beat the Capitals in the first round in consecutive seasons (1999–00, 2000–01), and seemed to amplify more after the trade of Jaromir Jagr.
More recently, with the drafting and emergence of Alexander Ovechkin in Washington, and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, the rivalry has heated up again, with controversial comments that Alexander Semin made about Crosby in the media and physical altercations taking place between Ovechkin and Malkin during games. One of the best series to date between the teams was the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, in which the Capitals took a 2–0 series lead before letting it go once again to be downed in 7 games, ending with a 6–2 Game 7 loss at the Verizon Center. Just like in 1991 and 1992, the Penguins defeated the Capitals in the playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup. The two teams faced off at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic hosted in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, with the Capitals emerging victorious 3–1.
Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
The NHL's extension of the Boston-New York rivalry - present in the other leagues with the Red Sox–Yankees rivalry, Knicks–Celtics rivalry and Jets–Patriots rivalry - had its peak during the 1970s, but saw a resurgence in the 2010s. In the Original Six era, the teams had six matchups, with the Rangers only winning in 1928 and 1940 - both on the way to a Stanley Cup title. Between 1970 and 1973, where the Rangers' GAG line and the Bruins lead by Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito had strong showings, the teams met three times, with the highest point being the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals, which the Bruins won in six games. Forty years would pass before the next series between the Bruins and Rangers, and in 2013 the Bruins eliminated the Rangers in five games. The Bruins lead the all-time series, with a record of 282-247-97. The Bruins have won seven playoffs series, to the Rangers' three.
Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
This Rivalry began in the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals when the Flyers defeated the Bruins in six Games. One notable moment was in the 2010 playoffs, the Bruins were up three games to none, but that lead would be erased in game 7, when they were also up three goals to none early in the game but the Flyers fought back with a power-play goal midway though the third. But the Bruins made that up when they swept the Flyers the following year in the same round despite not having home ice. This rivalry is shared with the Celtics–76ers rivalry of the NBA, the Red Sox–Phillies rivalry of the MLB, and the Eagles–Patriots rivalry of the NFL.
Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Bruins and Penguins have been rivals since the Penguins joined the NHL in 1967. The two teams have met in the playoffs five times, with the Bruins winning the first two in 1979 and 1980. But their next three meetings were ones for the ages. In 1991, the two teams met in the Wales Conference final. After Boston won the first two games at home, Penguins forward Kevin Stevens made a guarantee to anybody that would believe him, that the Penguins would win the series. So when the series shifted to Pittsburgh, the would follow up on his word by winning the next four games to win the series in six games on their way to their first Stanley Cup. The turning point of the series came in game 3 when Ulf Samuelsson flipped Cam Neely over his head causing him to land on his knee. This would mark a downfall for Neely as several knee problems hindered him which led to his retirement in 1996, and made Samuelsson public enemy #1 in Pittsburgh. The next year, the teams met again in the conference final. But the series would turn out to be a one sided affair as the Penguins swept the Bruins outscoring them 19 to 7. In 2013, they met in the conference finals. The Bruins would surprise the Penguins by sweeping them in four straight games, marking the first time that the Penguins were swept in a seven game series for the first time since 1979, when ironically it was the Bruins who swept Pittsburgh that year.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The rivalry began in the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals when the Flyers defeated the Sabres in six games to win their second straight Stanley Cup. Three years later, they would defeat the Sabres in the quarterfinals in five games. The rivalry would be renewed in 1995 when the Flyers made the playoffs for the first time since 1989, and would face the Sabres in the opening round prevailing in five games. In 1997, the Flyers defeated the Sabres in the Conference semi-finals in five games as part of their 1997 Stanley Cup run. The Sabres would finally defeat the Flyers the following year in five games in the quarterfinals. In 2000, it would be the same result in the same round. But, It was the Flyers taking the series. In 2001, the Sabres would defeat the Flyers in six games in the same round again. They would not meet again until 2006 when the Sabres once again defeated the Flyers in 6 games in the quarterfinals. Then in 2011, the Flyers finally got revenge as they defeated the Sabres in seven games in the first round.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
There are significantly fewer major rivalries in the NHL's Western Conference, due to that conference being much younger (the conference as a whole was created in 1967, and only one of the conference's teams – the Chicago Blackhawks – predates the conference's creation) and its teams generally are, geographically speaking, spread much farther apart than those on the East Coast.
The Central Division was essentially formed as the Norris Division in 1974. From 1981 onward, it would have all the Central Time Zone teams in the US and the Eastern Time Zone teams not in the Wales Conference. It became the Central Division in 1993.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues
The Blues–Blackhawks rivalry features the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. Since 1970, the two teams have been in the same division together. It is the most intense rivalry in terms of penalty minutes and fighting. At the height of the rivalry throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, it was common to go to a Chicago vs. St. Louis game and see a brawl break out. The rivalry cooled somewhat in the 2000s, but it heated back up in the 2010s, with both teams finding success in the early 2010s as well as Chicago losing the long time division rival with the Detroit Red Wings as a result of the 2013-14 realignment. All six Sutter Brothers would play for this rivalry.
The Pacific Division dates back to the 1974 formation of the Smythe Division, which from 1981 onward would contain the westernmost teams in the NHL. It became the Pacific Division in 1993.
Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks
The Ducks–Sharks rivalry has been going since 1993 when the Ducks came into existence. The rivalry got even more heated when the two faced each other in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Ducks won the series 4-2. In a 2012 Geico advertisement featuring NHL rivalries, a Sharks fan and his dog and a Ducks fan and her dog are shown.
Freeway Face-Off: Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings
The term Freeway Face-Off refers to a series of games played between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. The series takes its name from the massive freeway system in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, the home of both teams; one can travel from one team's arena to the other simply by traveling along Interstate 5. The term is akin to the Freeway Series which refers to meetings between the Los Angeles area baseball teams, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Battle of California: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
The rivalry between the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area NHL teams began as a result of the 1967 NHL Expansion, which established both the Los Angeles Kings and the California Golden Seals. At the time, the Kings and Seals were the only two NHL teams located west of the Mississippi River (the St. Louis Blues were located on that river), and thus were created for each other to both reduce the amount of travel each team would need to do and to gain a foothold on the West Coast, previously the province of the borderline-major Western Hockey League, of which the Seals had previously been a member. The Seals were a historically unsuccessful team and left the Bay Area in 1976; the team ceased to exist when it merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978.
The Kings–Sharks rivalry started in 1991, when the San Jose Sharks were spun off from the North Stars and effectively reborn under the Seals' previous ownership. This rivalry really kicked things off, with defeating the Wayne Gretzky era Los Angeles Kings 4–0 on April 28, 1995 destroyed any hope of a Kings playoff appearance. The Kings didn't get a definitive win over the Sharks until the 2002–03 season, when the Kings' victory on February 17, 2003 at the Staples Center ended the Sharks hope of making the playoffs. The Kings and Sharks met again in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Sharks were the 2nd seed and the Kings were the 7th seed. The Sharks would eliminate Los Angeles in 6 games with Joe Thornton scoring the OT goal that eliminated the Kings. In the 2011–12 NHL season, the teams competed for the last 2 seeds in the west with the Sharks ultimately securing the 7th seed while LA went into the 8th seed. San Jose would be eliminated by the St. Louis Blues in the first round while LA would steamroll their way to their first Stanley Cup in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. The two teams faced each other again at the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Kings winning the series 4-3.
The Kings and Sharks met again in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row, further adding fuel to the rivalry in a series that turned out to become a surprising 7 game series. San Jose took home ice and stormed to a 3-0 series lead, winning on home ice easily 6-3 and 7-2 before edging the Kings at Staples Center 4-3 in OT. The Kings then rebounded to send the series back to San Jose with a 6-3 victory in Game 4 before winning on the road 3-0 in Game 5 to head back to Los Angeles. A 4-1 win in Los Angeles for the Kings brought the series to sevem games, becoming just the 9th team in history to force a Game 7 after being down 0-3. Given the chance to become just the 4th team in NHL history to complete the unlikeliest of comebacks, the Kings won 5-1 in San Jose to win the series. In doing so, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter became the first NHL players to complete the comeback twice, both being part of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers team that came back from 0-3 down to the Boston Bruins, of which Richards was Captain. This rivalry is similar to a Californian version of Dodgers-Giants rivalry in baseball, Lakers-Warriors rivalry in basketball and California Clasico in soccer
Battle of Alberta: Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers
The Battle of Alberta is the bitter rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The two teams are based in the cities of Edmonton, the provincial capital of Alberta and Calgary, the province's largest city. Most often it is used to describe sporting events between the two cities, although this is not exclusive as the rivalry predates organized sports in Alberta.
Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks
The rivalry between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames has its roots in the stark geographic, political, and economic differences between Vancouver and Calgary, the two largest cities in Western Canada. The two cities are separated by the barrier of the Rocky Mountains, with Vancouver surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the peaks of the Coast Mountains, and forests and Calgary sitting on an expanse of flat prairie. The Rockies serve as not only a geographical barrier but a political one as well: Vancouver is a haven for the political left in Canada, strongly supportive of both the Liberal and New Democratic political parties, while Calgary has been a bastion of right-wing politics since the province of Alberta's creation and is a stronghold for the Conservative Party.
Prior to the turn of the millennium, the Canucks and Flames faced each other during the first round of postseason play in 1982, which was the first playoff series victory by the Canucks, en route to the Finals, 1983, 1984, during the Flames championship season of 1989, and 1994, with Calgary holding a 3-2 margin. The latter two series were decided in 7 games by overtime goals (Joel Otto for Calgary and Pavel Bure for Vancouver) and coincidentally both managed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals during those seasons (with Calgary winning the cup in 1989).
In the early and mid-90s, the rivalry was considered among the most intense in the NHL, with the two teams often battling for top spot in the Smythe and later Pacific Division. However, it started to fade soon afterward as both teams started to sink in the standings in the late 1990s.
It was during the 2003–04 season when the rivalry re-ignited, with the Canucks and Flames constantly battling for the top spot in the Northwest Division along with the Colorado Avalanche. When Canucks captain Markus Naslund and Flames captain Jarome Iginla developed into two of that era's greatest players, the rivalry became one of which team had the better overall leader. Between the beginning of the century and Naslund's departure from the Canucks in 2008, the spotlight would often be featured on both he and Iginla whenever the teams matched up. During the 2001–02 season, the two found themselves competing for the Art Ross Trophy for the league's highest point scorer. The following year, both players were featured in a Nike commercial promoting the rivalry between them.
These two teams met again during the first round of the 2004 postseason, and, just like in 1989 and 1994, the series-winning goal was scored in overtime in game seven, this time by Calgary's Martin Gélinas (who incidentally was a member of the 1994 Canucks team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals). The Flames advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals, becoming the first Canadian team to reach that far since the 1994 Canucks. However, unlike 1989, but alike Vancouver in 1994 by the New York Rangers, they were defeated by the Lightning in seven games.
The subsequent trade by Vancouver for netminder Roberto Luongo in June 2006 gave the Canucks a capable opponent to Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff, who has already established himself as one of the top goalies in the NHL. Players from both teams bring out their best when they play against each other, resulting in games of high entertainment value. In addition to the duel between Luongo and Kiprusoff, matchups between former Vancouver defenceman Willie Mitchell and Flames captain Jarome Iginla were also noteworthy.
The two teams reignited the rivalry on January 18, 2014 at Rogers Arena when the game started with a line brawl after the opening faceoff. Flames coach Bob Hartley started his fourth line that included tough guys Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth. Interpreting it as a danger to his usual first line, Canucks coach John Tortorella sent his own fourth line onto the ice in response. As soon as the puck dropped, all ten skaters on the ice paired up and began fighting. It lasted several minutes before the referees got it under control with 8 players being ejected including Canucks forward Kellan Lain who was playing in his first NHL game. While the players fought, Tortorella and Hartley had a heated verbal exchange across the benches. During the first intermission, Tortorella angrily confronted the Flames in the hallway and continued to berate them as they went to their dressing room before players and staff from both teams broke it up. The Canucks would end up winning the game 3-2 in as shootout.
|Year||Where they met in playoffs||Result of series||Result of playoffs|
|1982||Smythe Division Semifinals||Van 3, Cal 0||Vancouver swept by the Islanders in Cup Finals|
|1983||Smythe Division Semifinals||Cal 3, Van 1||Calgary beaten by the Oilers in the Smythe Final in 5 games.|
|1984||Smythe Division Semifinals||Cal 3, Van 1||Calgary beaten by the Oilers in the Smythe Final in 7 games.|
|1989||Smythe Division Semifinals||Cal 4, Van 3||Calgary wins Cup.|
|1994||Western Conference Quarterfinals||Van 4, Cal 3||Vancouver loses to the Rangers in Cup Finals, which like the series against Calgary, went 7 games.|
|2004||Western Conference Quarterfinals||Cal 4, Van 3||Calgary loses to Tampa Bay in Cup Finals, which like the series against Vancouver, went 7 games.|
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings
The rivalry would start in the 1970-71 season, when the Blackhawks moved to the West Division. although these two teams never shared the same success, they did meet in the 1974 playoffs where the more experienced Blackhawks won the series in 5 games. It cooled down after the Hawks and the Kings were in separate divisions in separate conferences. It got intense in the 2012-13 lockout season, when the Blackhawks spoiled the Kings Stanley Cup ring, and banner party on their way to one of the best starts in sports history. The rivalry caught fire when these two teams meet in the Western Conference Finals. The Kings were defending cup champions. But, the Hawks prevented the Kings from repeating in double overtime in game 5. In 2014, the reverse happened; the Hawks were defending cup champs but, the Kings would crush the Blackhawks dreams for a repeat in game 7 also in overtime after building a 3-1 series lead.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks
The rivalry has become more heated in recent years, given three straight years of playoffs series between these teams. The first seeds of the rivalry began with the re-alignment of the NHL in 1974, placing both teams in the newly formed Smythe Division. For two years, they battled each other for top spot and in 1977, they went down to the wire for the last playoff spot, which Chicago won on a tiebreaker by virtue of having more wins at season's end.
The two teams met in the playoffs for the first time in the 1982 Campbell Conference Finals, which is best remembered for a mock surrender by then-Canucks coach Roger Neilson over what he deemed questionable officiating in Game 2, which began the Towel Power tradition in Vancouver and elsewhere in sports. Vancouver prevailed in the series four games to one, as part of their 1982 Cinderella Stanley Cup run. The Blackhawks swept the Canucks in the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals.
They would not meet again until the 2008–09 season. The Blackhawks would eliminate the Canucks in the playoffs that season in the second round and would defeat them again the following season in the same round as part of the their 2010 Stanley Cup run. The rivalry would caught fire in 2011, as they met for the third straight year in the first round of the playoffs that year, where the Canucks finally defeated Chicago 4–3. In this series, the Canucks took a 3–0 series only to drop the next 3 games. In Game 7, the Blackhawks tied it in the final minutes shorthanded, sending the game to overtime. In overtime, Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows scored on a slapshot to win the series for the Canucks, as part of their 2011 Stanley Cup run.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings defeated the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in their first game ever (7–2 at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, 1993), and frequent playoff matches between the two teams created much animosity between the fanbases. Detroit swept Anaheim in the franchise's first two series (the Western Conference Semifinals in 1997, where the Red Wings went on to win the Cup, and the first round in 1999), and the Ducks afterwards beat the Red Wings en route to two Stanley Cup Finals - the first round in 2003, and the 2007 Western Finals, where the Ducks later became league champions. The next time both teams faced each was a violent seven game series in the Western Semifinals 2009, won by the Red Wings. In the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs the teams had their last non-finals playoff encounter where the second seeded Ducks were defeated by the Red Wings in seven games.
The rivalry became an interconference rivalry in the 2013–14 season, when the Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference.
Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks
The Bruins and Canucks rivalry was born in the summer of 1986 when the Canucks traded struggling forward Cam Neely to the Bruins for Barry Pederson and Vancouver's 1st round pick in the 1987 draft. Pederson would struggle in Vancouver as his career in into a downfall. He registered less than 100 points past the age of 27, and was out of the game by 1992. Meanwhile, Cam Neely's game took off immediately, as he scored 36 goals in his first year in Boston. The next year he scored 42 and was named a 2nd team All-Star. By the 1989-90 season, he was the most feared power forward in the game, as respected for his natural scoring touch as well as his ferocious fighting ability. While Neely's career was cut horribly short by injury, he still registered three 50-goal seasons, is a legend in Boston, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005. To add insult to injury, Vancouver's poor season following the deal turned the draft pick into the #3 overall selection in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, with which the Bruins selected Glen Wesley who developed into an All-Star defender for the Bruins, and go on to a stellar 20-year career. The Bruins and Canucks would face off in the 2011 Stanley cup Final, which the Bruins won in seven games for the first championship since 1972. 
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
The Blackhawks–Red Wings rivalry was the most intense in the Central Division in the post lockout era. It has existed since 1926–27 and continued from the Original Six days (during which they were the league's only teams in the Midwest) into the present. These two clubs have faced each other in more regular season games than any other two clubs in NHL history, except for the total number of regular season and playoff matches between the Bruins and Canadiens. The rivalry became an inter-conference rivalry beginning in the 2013-14 season, as the Detroit Red Wings moved to the Eastern Conference.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Blackhawks and Penguins became rivals when Pittsburgh entered the league in 1967. On October 21, 1967, the Penguins became the first expansion team to defeat an original six team when they defeated the Blackhawks 2-1. The Penguins and Blackhawks have met in the playoffs twice with each team winning once. In 1972, the Blackhawks swept the Penguins in the opening round in the playoffs. Twenty years later in 1992, the Penguins turned the tables on the Hawks, when they swept the Blackhawks in the Stanley cup Final to win their second straight Stanley Cup. Both teams would struggle in the 2000s before coming two of the NHL's most dominant teams with the additions of several players. Pittsburgh added Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marc-André Fleury while Chicago got Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp. These moves would help both teams to a Stanley Cup championship, with the former winning in 2009 and the latter in 2010 and 2013.
Detroit Red Wings vs. San Jose Sharks
Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues
The Rivalry began when the Red Wings switched divisions in the 1981-82 season. The Rivalry would develop in the late 80's when they had intense division battles. In 1988, the Red Wings would defeat the Blues in 5 games in the Norris division final. The rivalry heated up in the 90's. In 1991, the Blues would defeat the Red Wings in 7 games in the Norris division semi-finals after overcoming a 3-1 deficit. They would meet up in the playoffs 3 straight times between 1996–98; Which all three victories would be the Red Wings. Although the Blues almost defeated the Red Wings in 1996. They held a 3-2 advantage and it look like the Blues would upset the Wings in game 6, but the Wings would win the last two games including a double overtime victory in game 7. This also would be part of the 1997 and 1998 Stanley cup runs. When the Divisions realigned in 1998-99 season, this was the most intense rivalry in the Central division as they had many division battles until the 2004 season. They even met in the playoffs in 2002 in the conference semi-finals, as the Red Wings defeated the Blues in 5 games as part of their 2002 Stanley Cup run. The rivalry instantly died in the post lockout as the Blues entered a slump, only reviving as the teams fought for the Central Division title in the 2011-12 season. The rivalry died down however due to Detroit moving to the Eastern Conference.
Battle of New England: Boston Bruins vs. Hartford Whalers
The rivalry was first started before the two teams ever met on the ice when the Bruins "blocked" the WHA merger in 1979 because "the Whalers were in their territory". They first played each other in the 1979–80 season with the Bruins flourishing against the season while the "expansion" Whalers were awful that year. They played the Bruins twice in the playoffs in 1990 and 1991, the Bruins won both times. The rivalry got to a heating point when Cam Neely and Ulf Samuelsson would fight on a regular occasion. It got to a point where Samuelsson hit Neely in the knees in the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Samuelsson was traded to the Penguins earlier that season. At the Hartford Civic Center, usually when the Bruins won, the Whalers fans would fight Bruins fans on Ann St in Downtown Hartford. The rivalry ended in 1997 when the Whalers relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina.
Battle of Quebec: Montreal Canadiens vs. Quebec Nordiques
The Battle of Quebec is the nickname for a former NHL rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques. The rivalry lasted from 1979–80–1994–95. The teams played against each other five times in the NHL playoffs, and the Canadiens won three of the series. One meeting, in 1984, resulted in the Good Friday Massacre, a game in which multiple brawls happened. The Battle of Quebec extended to politics, in which the Canadiens and Nordiques became symbols for rival parties, and beer distribution, as the teams were both owned by competing breweries. The Nordiques' departure from Quebec City to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995 ended the rivalry.
Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets (original)
The Flames and Jets met in the playoffs three straight years in the 1980s, with Winnipeg winning two of the three matchups. In 1985, the Jets defeated the Flames three games to one for their first ever playoff series victory. The next season, the Flames got their revenge by sweeping the Jets in three straight games capped off by Lanny McDonald's overtime winner in the deciding game beginning the Calgary's run to the Stanley cup Final where they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games. In 1987, the Jets upset the Flames in six games in the opening round in what would turn out to be their final playoff series victory until 2012, (by that time, they were known as the Phoenix Coyotes).
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota North Stars
The North Stars and the Blackhawks played each other in the playoffs six times from 1982 through 1991. The rivalry was at its most fierce from 1982 through 1985, when the teams played in four straight playoff series, with the Blackhawks winning three out of the four. In 1991, the Blackhawks had won the President's Trophy with 106 points and were one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. But, despite finishing with 68 points (38 behind the Blackhawks) during the season, Minnesota upset the first place overall Blackhawks in six games beginning their Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final where they lost in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the second largest upset in NHL history in points. The rivalry died in 1993, when the North Stars moved to Dallas, but was reborn in 2013, when both the Minnesota Wild and its predecessor in Minnesota, the Dallas Stars, moved into the Central division.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings
The groundwork for the Avalanche–Red Wings rivalry was laid well before Denver even had an NHL franchise, during games between Detroit and Quebec. Once the Nordiques moved to Denver, the small rivalry still existed. Also, in a regular season game between Detroit and Montreal, the Wings scored on Patrick Roy 9 times, leading to Roy demanding a trade. Roy was eventually traded to Colorado and became a huge factor in the rivalry.
The rivalry was largely predicated on the competitiveness of both teams in the late '90s and early 2000s. From 1996–2002, the teams met in five playoff series, three times in the Western Conference Finals. Out of those seven seasons, the teams combined to win five Stanley Cups and four Presidents' Trophies. From 1995–2003, both teams, along with the Devils, reigned exclusively as Stanley Cup champions, except in 1999, which was won by the Dallas Stars (the Devils beat the Red Wings in 1995, the Avalanche beat the Devils in 2001). The rivalry died down after the 2001-02 season, with the following season having both teams falling in round 1 and Roy's eventual retirement. The next confrontation between the two teams was in 2008, with the Red Wings sweeping the Avalanche 4-0 on the way to the Stanley Cup.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings–Oilers rivalry began more or less the instant the Oilers began playing in the NHL in the 1979 season. Among the first year Oilers' players was a young Wayne Gretzky, who instantly challenged for the Art Ross Trophy against the Kings' Marcel Dionne. In the end, Gretzky and Dionne were tied with 137 points, but the award was given to Dionne, who had two more goals (53 vs. Gretzky's 51). It should be noted that Gretzky played 79 games to Dionne's 80. Gretzky remarked during a press conference at which the scoring title was awarded to Dionne that he had been taught "that an assist was good as a goal."
The two teams would not meet in the playoffs until the 1981–82 season. That season, Gretzky shattered the NHL record for points in a season with 212 (92 goals and 120 assists). The Oilers also jumped to the top of their division despite playing in their third NHL season and had the third best record in the league. The Kings, after a fairly impressive 1980–81 season, slumped to having the fifth worst record in the 21 team NHL. They only made the playoffs, being fourth in the same division as the Oilers, because the Colorado Rockies had an even worse record in their last season there. This set the stage for the top-seeded, heavily favored Oilers to meet in the first round against the Kings. After a two-game split in Edmonton, Game 3 in Los Angeles began with a commanding Oilers 5–0 lead after two periods. But in a miraculous comeback, the Kings managed to tie it at 5 in the third period, scoring the tying goal with 5 seconds left on a two-man advantage. The Kings won 6–5 in overtime. This game is often referred to as the Miracle on Manchester. The Oilers struck back in Game 4 to send it back to Edmonton for Game 5. However, Game 5 was no contest, which saw the Kings jump to a 2-0 lead and went on to win the game 7-4 in front of a shocked Edmonton crowd.
For the next two seasons, the Kings missed the playoffs, while the Oilers learned from their mistakes and competed in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1983 and won their first Stanley Cup in 1984. Both finals were played against the Islanders. The teams finally met again in 1985, but this time the Oilers swept the Kings in three games, two of which went to overtime. The Oilers would go on to win their second straight Stanley Cup. They met again in 1987 under a new best-of-7 playoff format for the first round. With the departure of aging superstar Marcel Dionne and the emergence of Luc Robitaille, Steve Duchesne, and Jimmy Carson as emerging stars for the Kings, Los Angeles would surprise the Oilers with a game 1 victory in Edmonton, but momentum for the Kings would be short lived as the Oilers responded with a 13-3 win for game 2, followed by three high scoring games where the Oilers would score just three goals more than the Kings over their three wins to clinch the series 4-1; and just like their 1985 meeting, once again the Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup. In 1988, the Kings continued to be blown out of the first round, but this time by the Calgary Flames, while Gretzky led the Oilers to another Stanley Cup.
The entire sports world was shocked on August 9, 1988 upon the announcement of the Oilers trading Gretzky along with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley, to the Kings for two rising young players (Jimmy Carson and Martin Gélinas), three first-round draft picks, and $15 million.
Gretzky led the Kings in the 1988–89 season to vast improvements. For the first time, the Kings had a better season record than Edmonton, finishing second in the Smythe Division over the third place Oilers. This also led to another first round match up between them. This time, it was the Kings, with Gretzky, against the Oilers, with the Kings having home ice advantage for the first time in a playoff series for them since 1981. In their 1989 playoff meeting, the Oilers first took command of the series and jumped ahead 3–1. But Los Angeles answered back with 3 straight wins to win the series against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. The Kings had nothing left for the next series and would be swept out of the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions the Calgary Flames. The 1989-90 season saw the Oilers regroup and finish second in the Smythe Division while the Kings finished fourth, and thus had face the defending champion Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs. Once again the Kings would pull off a major upset in the first round only to be swept by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Oilers, who were seeking revenge for the previous year. In the 1990-91 season, the Kings finished first in their division for the first and (as of 2013) only time in their history, and were heavy favorites as Stanley Cup contenders. However, they struggled in the playoffs, defeating the lowly Canucks in six games in the first round, but once again losing in six games to the Oilers in the second round in a series that saw four games go into overtime, two in double overtime. The 1991-92 NHL season saw the Kings again finish above the Oilers in the Smythe Division, only to stumble in the first round and see the Oilers once again eliminate the Kings out of the playoffs in six games.
After the 1991–92 season, the rivalry died down as players from the Oilers moved to other teams. Jari Kurri and Charlie Huddy rejoined Gretzky on the Kings and went on a run to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Canadiens 4–1. Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Adam Graves, Craig MacTavish, and others moved to the Rangers and go on a Stanley Cup winning run in 1994, which was the last hurrah for the great Edmonton team of the 1980s. In that series, Messier became the first to captain two teams to the Stanley Cup, something Gretzky couldn't do with the Kings the year before. The Kings afterwards faced hard times, winning only one playoff series between 1993 and 2012 (that coming in the opening round of the 2001 playoffs), and would not win the Stanley Cup until 2012.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets (original)
The Oilers and Jets both started their existence in the World Hockey Association in 1972. There, the Jets dominated the Oilers winning the Avco Cup three times, while the Oilers were not playoff contenders. But, when they joined the NHL in 1979 (along with the Quebec Nordiques and Hartford Whalers), the tables were turned, thanks to an 18-year-old from Brantford, Ontario named Wayne Gretzky. From 1983 to 1989, the Oilers and Jets met in the playoffs five times, the Oilers won every one of them, losing only one game out of the 19 games played between the two on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988; with the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup in the latter four years. But, when Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, the Jets thought they got the upper hand on Edmonton. When they met in the first round of the 1990 playoffs, the Jets took a commanding 3 games to 1 series lead, and led game 5 by that same margin. Eventually, the Oilers fought back to win the next three games and the series in seven. This would serve as a wake up call to Edmonton, would lose just three more games the rest of the way en route to their fifth Stanley Cup championship in seven years, and their first without Gretzky. While the rivalry ended in 1996 when the Jets left Winnipeg to became the Phoenix Coyotes.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Montreal Maroons
New York Americans vs. New York Rangers
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
The Islanders and Capitals were rivals through the 1980s, dating back to their days in the Patrick Division. In 1983, the two teams met in the playoffs for the first time ever. The Islanders were the three time defending Stanley Cup champions while the Capitals were in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Islanders won the series three games to one on their way to their fourth straight Stanley Cup. The next year, the two teams met again, this time they were evenly matched as the Capitals finished second in the division with 101 points, three points back of the first place Islanders. The Islanders were nearly eliminated in the opening round by their crosstown rivals, the New York Rangers, before Ken Morrow scored the overtime winner in the fifth and deciding game. Meanwhile, the Capitals had a much easier first round as they swept the Philadelphia Flyers in three straight games. Washington won the opener by a score of 3–2, but the Islanders would win the next four games to take the series in five on their way to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in five games. In 1985, the Capitals won the first two games of the series before the Islanders came back to win the next three in a row to take the series in five games. In 1986, the Capitals would finally be victorious over the Islanders in the playoffs. The Caps had their best regular season in franchise history (until 2009) when they won 50 games and recorded 107 points. In the opening round, they swept the Isles in three straight games for their first ever playoff series win over the Islanders. In 1987, the teams had one of the most memorable playoff series in NHL history. The Capitals won game one by a score of 4–3, before the Islanders won the next game 3–1 to tie the series at one win each. When the series shifted to New York, the Capitals took control winning the next two games by scores of 2–0 and 4–1 to take a three games to one series lead. Luckily for the Islanders, the opening round of the playoffs was expanded to a best of seven. The Isles won game 5 in Washington by a score of 4–2 and game 6 at home 5–4, sending the series back to the Capital Centre for the seventh and deciding game. In Game 7, the Caps jumped out to a 1–0 lead near the end of the first period on a goal by Mike Gartner. In the second, New York got on the board when Patrick Flatley scored at 11:39 to tie the game at 1. Late in the period, Grant Martin scored to give the Caps a 2–1 lead after two periods of play. Then, at 14:37 of the third period, Bryan Trottier scored to tie the game at 2. No one in attendance at the Cap Centre or watching at home on TV knew it yet, but the game had not yet reached its halfway point. In overtime, the two goaltenders, Kelly Hrudey for New York and Bob Mason for Washington went at it save for save, stopping every scoring chance the other team had. Finally, after three scoreless overtimes, Pat LaFontaine scored the winner at 8:47 of the fourth overtime period, giving the Islanders a 3–2 victory and a 4–3 series win in a game known as the Easter Epic. Six years later in 1993, the teams met once again, the Capitals finished second in the division with 93 points, six points ahead of the Islanders. Washington won the opener by a score of 3–1, before the Islanders won the next three games, all in overtime, including a pair in double OT to take a 3–1 series lead. Washington won game five to stave off elimination, but in game six, the Islanders won 5–3 to take the series in six. But, the win came at a price as Pierre Turgeon suffered a shoulder injury of a vicious check by Washington's Dale Hunter after scoring a goal to put the game and series out of reach. As a result, Hunter was suspended for the first 21 games of the 1993-94 season.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Winnipeg Jets (original)
The rivalry between the Canucks and Jets was intense mostly in the 1990s, the two teams met in the playoffs twice with the Canucks winning both matchups. In 1992, the Canucks trailed the Jets 3 games to 1, but Vancouver would rally to win the final three games to take the series in seven games. The next year, Vancouver managed to defeat the Jets in six games and eliminate them in the first round for a second consecutive year. Game six was not without controversy as Greg Adams scored the first goal for the Canucks, however video replay showed the goal was clearly scored with a high-stick, the goal was allowed to stand. Adams went on to score the game winner in overtime and once again the goal was surrounded with controversy as video replay showed Adams crashing into the net and goalie Bob Essensa. This sent the puck into the net with the back of Essensa's skate. The goal also counted and Jet fans in attendance began to throw debris onto the ice in frustration with the call, as a result, the two teams quickly shook hands at center ice and immediately headed to their dressing rooms.
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- Cole, p. 107
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- Caps vs. Islanders: It Hasn’t Mattered This Much Since 1993