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 Battle of the QEW: Buffalo Sabres vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- 2.1.3 Boston Bruins vs. Buffalo Sabres
- 2.1.4 Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
- 2.1.5 Buffalo Sabres vs. Ottawa Senators
- 2.1.6 Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- 2.1.7 Governor's Cup: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers
- 2.1.8 Montreal Canadiens vs. (original and modern) Ottawa Senators
- 2.1.9 Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- 2.2 Metropolitan Division
- 2.2.1 Battle of the Hudson River: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers
- 2.2.2 Battle of the Turnpikes: New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers
- 2.2.3 Battle of the Keystone State: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
- 2.2.4 Battle of New York: New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers
- 2.2.5 New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
- 2.2.6 New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
- 2.2.7 Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers
- 2.2.8 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington Capitals
- 2.2.9 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
- 2.2.10 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
- 2.2.11 Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers
- 2.3 Interdivisional
- 2.1 Atlantic Division
- 3 Western Conference
- 3.1 Central Division
- 3.2 Pacific Division
- 3.2.1 Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks
- 3.2.2 Arizona Coyotes vs. Vegas Golden Knights
- 3.2.3 Battle of Alberta: Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
- 3.2.4 Battle of California: San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
- 3.2.5 Freeway Face-Off: Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings
- 3.2.6 Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames
- 3.3 Interdivisional
- 4 Historical
- 4.1 Anaheim Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings (1993–2013)
- 4.2 Battle of New England: Boston Bruins vs. Hartford Whalers (1979–1997)
- 4.3 Battle of Quebec: Montreal Canadiens vs. Quebec Nordiques (1979–1995)
- 4.4 Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets (original) (1980–1987)
- 4.5 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings (1926–2013)
- 4.6 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota North Stars (1981–1993)
- 4.7 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks (1974–2013)
- 4.8 Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings (1995–2003)
- 4.9 Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues (1981–2013)
- 4.10 Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings (1981–1993)
- 4.11 Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets (original) (1972–1979 in WHA, 1979–1996)
- 4.12 Montreal Canadiens vs. Montreal Maroons (1924–1938)
- 4.13 New York Americans vs. New York Rangers (1925–1942)
- 5 See also
- 6 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. 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 six 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 are located 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 Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. The teams compete in the same division and meet frequently during regular season games. In the early 2000s, both of these teams met four times in the playoffs with Toronto winning each series.
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 highway. The distance from the south end, the KeyBank 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. Thus Leafs-Sabres games in Buffalo are attended by large crowds of Leafs fans. Since the 1998–99 season, both teams have played in the Northeast Division, now the Atlantic Division. The teams' only playoff confrontation occurred in the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, won by Buffalo. The rivalry was added to in May, 2015, with head coach Mike Babcock signing with the Leafs (who the Sabres were close to inking a deal with the day prior).
Buffalo leads both the all-time regular season series (113–67–18–8) and the all-time playoff series (4–1) for a total of 117–68–18–8.
Boston Bruins vs. Buffalo Sabres
The Bruins and Sabres have had a 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 longtime 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. In April 2013, the rivalry was set aside when both teams faced off in the Bruins first home game after the Boston Marathon bombing.
Boston leads both the all-time regular season series (135–110–29–11) and the all-time playoff series (25–20) for a total of 160–130–29–11.
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 Celtics–Lakers 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. 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.
Buffalo leads both the all-time regular season series (65–49–10–9) and the all-time playoff series (13–8) for a total of 78–57–10–9.
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 is no less intense. This rivalry dates to the 1920s. As of 2017, they have had twenty-three playoff meetings, five in the finals. So fierce was the rivalry that when the New York 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 needing 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 matchup became a divisional one 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.
Governor's Cup: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers 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 1998–2013, 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 series record of 64–52–10 as of the end of the 2016-17 season, 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.
Montreal Canadiens vs. (original and modern) Ottawa Senators
The rivalry between Montreal Canadiens and the original Ottawa Senators & later the modern Ottawa Senators began, just like Toronto and Ottawa, in the early days of the NHL. The first National Hockey League game was between the original Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens on December 19, 1917. Also, in 1927, the two teams faced each other in the second round, Ottawa won that series and they went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens and the modern Senators face each other often as they are both in the Atlantic Division and there is only a two-hour drive from Montreal to Ottawa via Quebec Autoroute 20 and Ontario Highway 417. The modern Ottawa Senators' first NHL game was held in Ottawa on October 8, 1992 where the expansion Senators defeated the Canadiens 5–3. That victory would be one of the only Senators' highlights of their inaugural season; they would win only nine more games the rest of the season to finish with ten wins and 24 points (tied for the NHL's worst record with the San Jose Sharks), while the Canadiens went on to win their 24th Stanley Cup that season.
The modern Senators and the Canadiens faced each other in the playoffs for the first time in 2013. In that series, there were a large amount of controversial events. In game 1, Senators' Eric Gryba laid out Montreal's Lars Eller in an open ice hit. After the game, Senators' coach Paul MacLean blamed Raphael Diaz for a suicide pass. Later, Canadiens' coach Michel Therrien responded and said that what Maclean said was a "lack of respect." Ottawa won that game 4-2. Plus, Brandon Prust also insulted Paul MacLean after the game, saying that he doesn't care what that "bug-eyed, fat walrus has to say." In Game 3, there was a full line brawl between Ottawa and Montreal. And later in that game, Paul MacLean called a timeout with 17 seconds left in the 3rd period with a 6–1 lead. Michel Therrien called Maclean classless while Maclean responded by saying that he was protecting his players from Montreal's dirty play in that game. The underdog Senators eventually won the series 4–1.
Two years later, the rivalry was renewed in another playoff series. In Game 1, Montreal's PK Subban slashed Ottawa's Mark Stone—breaking his wrist—and Subban was later kicked out of the game. Senators' coach Dave Cameron called the slash vicious and said that Subban deserves a suspension. Ottawa's Clarke MacArthur called it a lumberjack slash and Mark Stone said that he was being targeted all game. Meanwhile, Michel Therrien said that Subban did not deserve to be ejected and should have only gotten a minor penalty. Montreal won that game 4–3. Both Game 2 and Game 3 were decided in overtime, which were both won by Montreal. Riding a 3–0 lead in the series, Montreal saw Ottawa win the next two games, before closing the series in Game 6 with a 2–0 win in Ottawa.
Montreal leads the all-time regular season series 66–52–5–11, while Ottawa leads the all-time playoff series 6–5, for a total of 71–58–5–11 in favor of Montreal.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Canadiens–Maple Leafs rivalry is the oldest in NHL history. From 1943–79, 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 and their status as hubs for English Canada and French Canada, respectively.
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. However, neither team has won the cup since the 1990s.
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 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 six times in the playoffs; the Rangers have won four times.
Battle of the Turnpikes: New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The rivalry between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers is very intense in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, sometimes being referred to as the "Battle of the Turnpikes." The Devils play in Newark, New Jersey, which can be accessed by using the New Jersey Turnpike and the Flyers play in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is about twenty-five miles from the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The two turnpikes connect over the Delaware River on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey near Northeast Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey. In addition, 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 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 season series 150–93–30 and the playoff series, having won 4 out of 6 postseason matchups. 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, and by the fourth game the two teams had combined to score an NHL-record 45 goals. The Flyers ultimately prevailed in game 6, by which point the two teams had combined for 309 penalty minutes. At times, the rivalry has been considered by some to be the most heated in the league.
Battle of New York: New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers
The Islanders–Rangers rivalry, also unofficially known as the "Battle of New York", is unique among New York City's major league sports, as the Islanders and Rangers are in the same conference and division, guaranteeing plenty of matchups – similar to the National Basketball Association's Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, who since 2015 also share arenas with the Islanders and Rangers. 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 originally entered the league as the "step sister" of the New York Rangers, but their 4 straight Stanley Cups in the early 1980s generated a fierce rivalry between the teams and fan bases.
New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Islanders and Penguins have been rivals since the mid-1970s. These two teams have met in the playoffs four times, with the Islanders winning three of the four playoff series. In 1975, the Penguins led 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 NHL history (after the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942) to win a playoff series after trailing three games to none. In 1982, the Islanders won the first two games easily, before Pittsburgh tied the series. Going home for Game 5 and facing elimination, the game went into overtime where John Tonelli scored the game-winner. In 1993, the two teams met in the division final with the Islanders defeating the two time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in seven games.
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.
Pittsburgh leads the all-time regular season series 116–98–22–8, while the New York Islanders lead the all-time playoff series 13–12, for a total of 128–111–22–8 in favor of Pittsburgh.
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
The Capitals and Islanders were rivals during the 1980s and early 1990s. Between 1983 and 1987, the two teams met in the playoffs with the Islanders winning each series except 1986. The Islanders won the Division semifinals 3–1 in 1983, the Division Finals 4–1 in 1984, and the Division semifinals 3–2 after being down two games in 1985. The Capitals defeated the Islanders in 1986 in a three-game sweep.
In 1987, the teams had one of the most memorable playoff series in NHL history. The Islanders forced Game 7 after being down 3–1 in the series. 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.
Both teams met in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, with Washington winning the series four games to three.
Washington leads the all-time regular season series 104–87–13–6, while the New York Islanders lead the all-time playoff series 21–16, for a total of 120–108–13–6 in favor of Washington.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers
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, the Knicks–76ers rivalry in the National Basketball Association, and the 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.
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 between the two teams. Washington would win the game 7–0. Both teams met in the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, with the Capitals winning the series four games to two.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets have established a rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins in recent history (as of the 2013–14 season). This is referenced in telecasts, news articles  and online arguments between fans of the clubs. This rivalry is one of the NHL's newest, and primarily exists due to divisional and geographical alignments (Columbus and Pittsburgh are approximately 3 hours apart by automobile, via Interstate 70). As a result, it is not uncommon to see large numbers of visiting Penguins fans at games versus the Jackets in Nationwide Arena. Pittsburgh holds a 19–8–4 all-time regular season record.
The seeds for this rivalry were planted when the Blue Jackets traded star forward Rick Nash to the New York Rangers for Brandon Dubinsky, the latter of whom has a personal feud with Penguins' star centerman Sidney Crosby. Furthermore, this was amplified by the arrival of longtime Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Hartnell in Columbus. The 2013–14 NHL realignment saw the Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference, placing Columbus in the Metropolitan Division with the Penguins. Pittsburgh swept the regular season series against the Jackets, but Columbus, on the heels of a 93-point season, earned a wild-card playoff berth (only their second in team history), facing the Penguins in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, which the Penguins won in 6 games. The two teams met yet again in the first round in 2017. That series was won by the Penguins in 5 games, marking the second time in four years that Pittsburgh ended the Blue Jackets' season.
Despite these playoff losses to the Penguins, the Blue Jackets have in recent years gotten the better of Pittsburgh in regular season matchups, leaving the Penguins with a losing record versus Columbus over the past two years of play. Further intensifying the rivalry, the Jackets fired head coach Todd Richards early in the 2015–16 season, replacing him with John Tortorella, who has a long-standing disdain for the Penguins, dating back to his days as head coach of the New York Rangers.
Tensions between the teams further flared up during a regular season game at Nationwide Arena on November 27, 2015, when Brandon Dubinsky was penalized for a cross-check to Sidney Crosby, a hit which briefly injured Crosby and later earned Dubinsky a one-game suspension. Crosby would later return to the game; however, the Jackets prevailed 2-1 in overtime over the Penguins, a goal on which Dubinsky assisted. In an interview following Dubinsky's suspension, Tortorella would later go on to be quoted: "We're not going to whine here. Pittsburgh can whine. Pittsburgh whines enough for the whole league, so there's no room for any other team to whine. We'll just go about our business."
The two teams met for their second playoff meeting in the 2017 playoffs. Pittsburgh would be victorious in five games.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
The Pittsburgh Penguins–Washington Capitals rivalry was an inter-division rivalry from 1993 to 2013, and intradivisional the other seasons. In total, the two teams have met ten times in the playoffs. Despite trailing in 8 of the 10 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. In fact, all five Stanley Cups won by Pittsburgh have included a round against Washington. 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. The Capitals and Penguins completed their second playoff confrontation in the Ovechkin-Crosby era in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs with the Penguins winning in six games, again preceding Pittsburgh's fourth Stanley Cup title. In 2017, the Capitals and Penguins met again in the second round. Pittsburgh gained a 3–1 series lead only to see Washington win the next two games. The Penguins would shut out the Capitals at Verizon Center in Washington to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals again.
Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers
The rivalry takes place in the Metropolitan Division. The two have been rivals since the Capitals joined the Patrick Division in 1979. The rivalry got really heated during the 1990s with these teams meeting three times in five seasons. However, the rivalry has really heated as of 2015 with five series within the last seven years.
Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers
The NHL's extension of the Boston–New York rivalry – present in the other leagues with the Yankees–Red Sox rivalry, Celtics–Knicks 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 led 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-one years would pass before the next series between the Bruins and Rangers, and in 2013 the Bruins eliminated the Rangers in five games.
Boston leads both the all-time regular season series, 291–246–97–9, and the all-time playoff series, 26–19–2 (W–L–T), for a total of 317–265–99–9. The Bruins have won seven of ten playoffs series between the teams.
Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The Boston–Philadelphia NHL rivalry, also present in the NBA's Celtics–76ers rivalry, dates back to and was most intense in the 1970s, but the rivalry renewed its intensity in the 2010s. In the early 1970s, both the Bruins and Flyers played similar styles that reflected perfectly on each teams respective city, with the Bruins being known as the "Big Bad Bruins" and the Flyers as the "Broad Street Bullies." The most vicious rivalry of the era hit its peak in the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals, with the Bruins, led by Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, and Flyers, led by Bobby Clarke and Bernie Parent, in an intense grudge match. The Flyers would complete a stunning upset, defeating the Bruins in six games. The two teams would meet each other again in the 1976, 1977, and 1978 playoffs, but would not meet each other again in the playoffs until 2010. Prior to the playoff meeting, the two teams squared off in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park, with the Bruins winning the game 2–1 in overtime. When the two teams met in the playoffs that year, the Bruins stormed out to a 3–0 series lead, but the Flyers would complete a stunning comeback, winning the series four games to three, and end up in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins would get revenge the next season by sweeping the Flyers in the conference semifinals en route to their 2011 Stanley Cup win. In total, the Bruins and Flyers have met in the playoffs six times, with each team winning three series.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
A much more recent rivalry, these two teams met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, Detroit had taken a 3–1 series lead, and appeared to have all but secured the Cup at home, when Pittsburgh scored with less than a minute left to tie the game, eventually winning in triple overtime. Despite this comeback, Detroit was still able to win the series, winning game six in Pittsburgh. In 2009, Detroit seemed to be in control of the series after winning Game 5 5–0 to take a 3–2 series lead, but the Penguins were able to come back with 2–1 victories in Games 6 and 7 to win the Stanley Cup. With Detroit's move to the Eastern Conference, meetings between the teams are more common and they stir memories of the two finals. Detroit and Pittsburgh are also the only two teams to have accomplished a Stanley Cup repeat in the last thirty years (Detroit from 1997 to 1998, and Pittsburgh from 1991 to 1992 and again from 2016 to 2017).
Pittsburgh leads the all-time regular season series, 68–64–16–3, while Detroit leads the all-time playoff series 7–6, for a total of 74–71–16–3 in favor of Pittsburgh.
There are significantly fewer major rivalries in the NHL's Western Conference, due to this conference being much newer (the conference as a whole was created in 1967 as the West Division, then expanded as a Conference in 1974) and only one of the conference's teams – the Chicago Blackhawks – predates the conference's creation. Geographically, its teams are generally spread much farther apart than those of the Eastern Conference.
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. Minnesota Wild
The Blackhawks–Wild rivalry started during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs when the two teams met in the first round. The Blackhawks would end up victorious in five games in that series. The NHL realignment that took place during the 2013 offseason placed Chicago and Minnesota within the Central Division, further invigorating the rivalry, and also rekindling the Chicago-Minnesota rivalry that died out when the Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas in 1993. The rivalry became even more intense with another playoff meeting between the Blackhawks and the Wild in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, this time in the second round. The Blackhawks would once again turn out victorious, this time winning in six games. In the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blackhawks and the Wild met again in the second round. The Blackhawks would win yet again, but this time, in the fashion of a sweep. The rivalry has sparked interest within the NHL, and during the 2015 All Star Weekend in Columbus, the League announced two NHL Stadium Series games and the 2016 NHL Winter Classic. Game one of the 2016 NHL Stadium Series featured the Blackhawks and the Wild at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota on February 21, 2016. Minnesota won the game 6–1.
Minnesota leads the all-time regular season series 38–24–1–3, while Chicago leads the all-time playoff series 12–3, for a total of 41–36–1–3 in favor of Minnesota.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues
The Blackhawks–Blues 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 longtime 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 heated when the two faced each other in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Ducks won the series 4–2.
San Jose leads the all-time regular season series 67–53–4–8 and combined playoffs and regular season 69–57–4–8.
Arizona Coyotes vs. Vegas Golden Knights
There has been no match up of this rivalry yet but it is expected to be a big rivalry because both teams play in a desert. Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka said, "It's a natural rival and I hope it evolves that way." The first game between these two teams will take place on Saturday, October 7, 2017.
Battle of Alberta: Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
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. 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.
Battle of California: San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
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 and the Minnesota North Stars 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 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 in the playoffs for the first time ever in 2011. The Sharks were the 2nd seed and the Kings were the 7th seed. The Sharks would eliminate Los Angeles in six 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 steamrolled 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 seven 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. In February 2015, the two teams faced off against each other in an outdoor game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. The Kings would win the game 2–1.
San Jose leads both the all-time regular season series (75–55–7–9) and the all-time playoff series (14–11) for a total of 88–66–7–9.
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 two teams have also faced off in an outdoor game at Dodger Stadium, in which the Ducks won 3–0. The two teams have met only once in the playoffs, during the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, of which the Kings won 4 games to 3. The Kings would eventually go on to win the Stanley Cup that year. 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.
Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings
The rivalry would start in the 1970–71 season, when the Chicago 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. It got intense in the 2012–13 lockout-shortened season, when the Blackhawks spoiled the Kings' 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 the defending champions, but their hopes of repeating were dashed as the Hawks would down the Kings in double overtime in game 5. In 2014, the reverse happened; the Blackhawks were defending champs, but the Kings would crush their dreams for a repeat in game 7 also in OT after building a 3–1 series lead.
Chicago leads the both all-time regular season series (93–75–17–7) and the all-time playoff series (11–6) for a total of 104–81–17–7.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings (1993–2013)
The Detroit Red Wings defeated the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in their first game ever (7–2 at the Honda Center, 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 Western Quarterfinals in 1999), and the Ducks afterwards beat the Red Wings en route to two Stanley Cup Finals: the Western Quarterfinals in 2003 and the 2007 Western Finals, where the Ducks later became league champions. The next time both teams faced each other was a violent seven game series in the 2009 Western Semifinals, 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.
Before the 2013–14 season, the Detroit Red Wings moved from the Central Division of the Western Conference to the newly formed Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference. This marked the end of the rivalry, as the Red Wings and Ducks only meet twice per season as part of the NHL's scheduling format. During its time in the Western Conference, Detroit won the regular season series 48–18–7–2 and the all-time playoff series 18-14 against Anaheim for a total of 66–32–7–2.
Battle of New England: Boston Bruins vs. Hartford Whalers (1979–1997)
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 against each other in the 1979–80 season with the Bruins flourishing during the season while the expansion Whalers played awfully that year. The Whalers have played the Bruins twice in the playoffs in 1990 and 1991, with the Bruins winning both times. The rivalry got to a heating point when the Bruins' Cam Neely and the Whalers' Ulf Samuelsson would fight on a regular occasion. It got to a point where Samuelsson hit Neely in the knees during the 1991 Stanley Cup playoffs, but Samuelsson was traded to the Penguins earlier that season. At the Hartford Civic Center, usually where 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.
Before the Whalers moved to Raleigh, Boston won the all-time regular season series 68–42–14–0, and the all-time playoff series 8–5, for a total of 76–47–14–0 against Hartford.
Battle of Quebec: Montreal Canadiens vs. Quebec Nordiques (1979–1995)
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 to 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.
Before the Nordiques moved to Denver, Montreal won the all-time regular season series 79–57–12, and the all-time playoff series 17–14, for a total of 96–71–12 against Quebec.
Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets (original) (1980–1987)
The Flames and Jets (the original incarnation) 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 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 for the franchise until 2012, when they were known as the Phoenix Coyotes.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings (1926–2013)
The Blackhawks–Red Wings rivalry was the most intense in the Central Division during the post lockout era. It existed between 1926–27, went through the Original Six days (during which they were the league's only teams in the Midwest), to 2013. 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 games and playoff games between the Bruins and Canadiens.
Before the 2013–14 season, the Detroit Red Wings moved from the Central Division of the Western Conference to the newly formed Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, while Chicago stayed in the Central Division. This effectively ended the rivalry after almost 90 years.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota North Stars (1981–1993)
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 the 1981–82 through 1984–85 seasons, 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 1991 Stanley Cup Finals where they lost in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the second largest upset in NHL history in points. Chicago would get a small measure of revenge the following year, when they dethroned Minnesota as Campbell Conference Champions. But just like the North Stars the year before, the Blackhawks would lose to the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final. The rivalry died in 1993, when the North Stars moved to Dallas.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks (1974–2013)
For a period of five seasons between 2008–09 and 2012–13, this rivalry was considered one of the best, if not the best rivalry in the NHL. This is mainly because there were three straight years of playoffs series between these teams in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The first seeds of the rivalry began with the realignment of the NHL in 1974, placing both teams in the newly formed Smythe Division. For two years, they battled each other for the 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 their 2010 Stanley Cup run. The rivalry reached its peak in the 2011 playoffs, 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 three 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 run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, in which they ultimately lost in seven games to the Boston Bruins. The rivalry has died down since then due to the Canucks' regular season play as well as a lack of playoff matches between the two teams.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings (1995–2003)
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 nine 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 1995–2002, 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 one and Roy's eventual retirement. With conference realignment in 2013, this became an interconference matchup and the only playoff meeting between the two teams that is possible is in the Stanley Cup Finals. 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. A stadium series game took place on February 27, 2016 between the two teams at Coors Field. The Red Wings won the game 5–3.
Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues (1981–2013)
The rivalry began when the Red Wings switched divisions for 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 five games in the Norris division final. The rivalry really 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 three straight times between 1996–98; all three, which the Red Wings won. However, the Blues almost defeated the Red Wings in 1996. They held a 3–2 advantage and it looked 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 would also be part of the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup runs. When the Divisions realigned in 1998, this was the most intense rivalry in the Central division as they had many division battles until the 2004 season. They met during the playoffs in 2002 in the conference semifinals. The Red Wings defeated the Blues in five 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 for good after Detroit moved to the Eastern Conference during the 2013 realignment.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings (1981–1993)
The rivalry between the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings began more or less the instant the Oilers began playing in the NHL in the 1979–80 season. Among the first-year Oilers' players included a young Wayne Gretzky, who instantly challenged for the Art Ross Trophy against the Kings' Marcel Dionne. In the end, Gretzky and Dionne were both tied with 137 points, but the award was given to Dionne, who had two more goals (53 vs. Gretzky's 51). It should also be noted that Gretzky played 79 games to Dionne's full count of 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 books with the most 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. 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 the game 5–5 in the third period, scoring the tying goal with five seconds left on a two-man advantage. The Kings would later win the game 6–5 in overtime. This game is often referred to as the Miracle on Manchester. The Oilers struck back in Game 4 to send the series back to Edmonton for the deciding game in a best-of-five series. However, it was the Kings who upset the Oilers and advanced to the next round.
For the next two seasons, the Kings would miss the playoffs completely while the Oilers competed in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1983 and won their first Stanley Cup in 1984. Both finals were played against the dynasty New York Islanders. The two teams finally met again in 1985, but this time the Oilers defeated the Kings in three straight games. The Oilers would go on to win their second straight Stanley Cup. They met again in 1987 under a new best-of-seven playoff format for the first round, and again the Oilers would win, this time in five games, and again the Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup. In 1988, the Kings were again blown out of the first round, but by the Calgary Flames, while Gretzky led the Oilers to another Stanley Cup.
The entire world of sports was shocked on August 9, 1988 upon the announcement of the Oilers trading Wayne Gretzky along with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley, to the Kings for two rising young players (Jimmy Carson and Martin Gelinas), three first-round draft picks, and $15 million in US dollars.
Gretzky would lead 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 the Kings and Oilers. This time, it was the Kings, with Gretzky, against the Oilers, and the Kings also had home ice. The Oilers first took command of the series and jumped ahead three games to one above the Kings. But Los Angeles answered back with three straight wins to win the series against Edmonton.
In the next three playoff meetings between the two teams, the Gretzky-led Kings would be eliminated by his former teammates in four, six, and six games respectively. Edmonton also won another Stanley Cup in 1990 after sweeping the Kings in the second round.
After the 1990–91 season, the rivalry would die down as players from the Oilers would move to other teams. Jari Kurri and Charlie Huddy would rejoin Gretzky on the Kings and go on a playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993, losing to Montreal in five games. Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Adam Graves, Craig MacTavish, and others would move to the New York Rangers and go on a Stanley Cup winning run in 1994. Furthermore, the two Pacific Division teams have not met in the playoffs since 1992, nor have been regularly competitive at the same time, thus keeping what once was an intense divisional rivalry dormant. When the Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006 (losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games), the Kings failed to make the playoffs. For the next ten years after their playoff run, Edmonton did not make a postseason appearance, while Los Angeles won the Cup in 2012 and 2014.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets (original) (1972–1979 in WHA, 1979–1996)
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. Gretzky had been traded to the Los Angeles Kings by the time the two teams met in the first round of the 1990 playoffs. The Jets took a commanding three games to one 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. The Oilers would lose just three more games the remainder of the playoffs, en route to their fifth Stanley Cup championship in seven years. The rivalry ended in 1996 when the original Jets left Winnipeg to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
Before the Jets moved to Arizona, Edmonton won the all-time regular season series 63–41–8, and the all-time playoff series 22–4, for a total of 85-45-8.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Montreal Maroons (1924–1938)
The Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Maroons had a rivalry that existed between 1924 and 1938. Since 1918 no other team had been occupied in Montreal. The Montreal Wanderers had played for only six games before the arena they played in, the Montreal Arena, burnt down. The Montreal Maroons were meant to appeal to the English-speaking people of Quebec while the Canadiens were meant to appeal to French-Canadians. The two teams met in the playoffs for the first time in 1926 for a 2-game total-goals series. The final game had 11,000 fans packed in an arena meant for 10,000 as the Canadiens defeated the Maroons. The next year the Maroons would have their revenge as they defeated the Canadiens 3–2 in total goals. This would be their last playoff meeting before the Maroons eventually folded in 1938.
New York Americans vs. New York Rangers (1925–1942)
The New York Americans and New York Rangers had a rivalry that existed between 1925 and 1942. The two teams played in Madison Square Garden however the Americans were the first NHL team to occupy the stadium. Even though the Garden had promised team owner and bootlegger Bill Dwyer the Americans would be the sole hockey team in New York, fan popularity and ticket sales allowed the Rangers to come into existence, thus the rivalry was born. The two teams first met in the playoffs via two-game total goals series in 1929. Both teams struggled to score in both games as goaltender Roy Worters of the Americans shut down the Rangers for the most part, and the Americans struggled to find offense during the games. The Rangers would win the series 1–0 in overtime.
The Americans then struggled to make the playoffs only making it in 1936. Under the ownership of Red Dutton, the Americans made the playoffs in 1938 with a 19–18–11 record. Facing the Rangers for the second and final time, the Americans defeated the Rangers in three games with the help of veterans Ching Johnson and Hap Day. Once the United States joined World War II, both teams started to fade in terms of players; most American-born players went to fight in the war. The Americans folded in 1942 with the hope of coming back in 1946 after the war ended. However, the League reneged the promises made to the Amerks and cancelled the franchise. Owner Red Dutton was so furious at Madison Square Garden for not reinstating his team that he swore the Rangers would never win another Stanley Cup during his lifetime. This became true as the Rangers did not win the Stanley Cup again until 1994; Dutton died in 1987.
- Major League Baseball rivalries
- National Basketball Association rivalries
- National Football League rivalries
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