Before I get into the rankings, I just want to make clear that some of the listings of the rivalries don’t have as much heat as they used to but some are at the height of the peak and still ongoing. What some of the rivalries in the list do have though is a climax and why they have a climax is because of some game changing event that built animosity between the two teams. Some of the teams are rivals because there was much hype built by the imagination of media, hockey fans and analysts alike that turned their thoughts into a spoken idea just because they want to see how a certain match up would turn out because of the starpower involved between two teams. Some rivalries come and go, others stay established but one thing that rivalries have in common is that they’re not just battles, its a war. A war is not a war without a reason. A war without a reason is just a battle to come out on top of your competitor. Battles are primitive compared to war because war is much more complex. There are many more elements to war such as supremacy, hate, dominance, establishment, motivation and so on. To better understand how these elements translate into hockey, its because the players on the team have a sheer desire to gain geographical establishment against the opponents closest to them. Sometimes an event fuels the fire so revenge becomes an element. A player on the other the team may have landed a cheap shot on another player on your team and the team on the victims side wants revenge on the team and specifically that player so they want to establish their presence by roughing up the players on the other team. One of the most important reasons of why teams are rivals is because they to want to win the championship and be on top of the league, that is the ultimate establishment in hockey. Whether its for the Stanley Cup in the NHL or the Memorial Cup in the CHL, the goal is the same by every team and its to win the ultimate prize.
Wars start for different reasons but one thing about war is that war….war…never changes.
10: San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
- Peak Years: 2009 to present
- Why: Both teams are loaded with weapons and clutch playoff performers and it makes an excellent rivalry to battle for glory in California. Very close and very heated playoff match ups in recent years. Overall both teams are equally exciting to watch from a fan’s perspective plus it the leading example of hockey promotion in the Southern United States.
- Notable Events: 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs quarter finals game 6, Joe Thornton of the Sharks scores the overtime goal to advance his Sharks to the 2nd round of the playoffs after an epic series. In 2013 the same 2 teams face in the Stanley Cup semi-finals and it went all the way to game 7. Goaltender Jonathon Quick was on fire as he backstopped the Sharks powerful offensive force and narrowly won in a very close battle to advance to the Western Conference finals as they officially got their revenge against the Sharks after their 2011 playoff match.
- Geographical Proximity: Close (547.5 km apart)
- Who’s On Top: I’ll give this one to the L.A. Kings because of they’re Stanley Cup victory in 2012 and they’ve been slightly more successful than San Jose in the playoffs in the past 3 years.
9. Ottawa Senators vs. Buffalo Sabres
- Peak Years: 2005 to 2008
- Why: Very important playoff matches plus very intense regular season matches and which one of them ended in a full team brawl.
- Notable Events: There have been numerous playoff matches between the 2 teams over the years. There was one 1997 and 2006 but the biggest playoff matchup was in 2007 because of the events in the regular season leading up to it. On February 22nd, 2007 in what appeared to be just an ordinary regular season match up turned into an ugly full team brawl which was started by late hit by Sens’ Chris Neil on Sabres’ forward Chris Drury and it escalated into a major brawl on the ice. It was Sens goalie Ray Emery who stole the show as he faced Martin Biron and Andrew Peters in the brawl and came out on top on both bouts. Later that season they faced off in the Eastern Conference finals and the Sens won in 5 games as Daniel Alfredsson scored the series clinching goal to advance to the Stanley Cup final.
- Geographical Proximity: Close (542.8km apart)
- Who’s On Top: Ottawa takes the cake because they have overall had more success between them in Buffalo in the last 15 years plus they came out on top in that very heated 2007 season between the 2 teams due to the epic brawl.
8. Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
- Peak Years: Late 1980′s but still an intense rivalry to date.
- Why: It’s the battle of Alberta and it’s always a treat to watch these 2 teams play each other regardless if they’re playoff teams or not. Edmonton always known for their speed and skill prowess and Calgary is famous for their grit and hard work ethic.
- Notable Events: 1990 was the last time the Stanley Cup was rewarded in Alberta as Calgary and Edmonton won the cup 7 times between the 2 in 1984 to 1990. Since then there hasn’t been too much to remark about these teams. They both had minimal playoffs success since then but they have a faithful fan base to support both teams. This rivalry would of been ranked much higher if they would of made the playoffs more often.
- Geographical Proximity: Close (298.3 km apart)
- Who’s On Top: Based on the last 20 years, it’s hard to say because they have both been on some bad slumps in the past 5 years. Calgary does have the better record going head to head so I guess they’ll take it even though they’re not known as a winning team right now.
7. Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks
- Peak Years: Always intense no matter what
- Why: These teams have been facing each other for over 8 decades so that’s a long time to build a natural hate for each other plus each city ports a great lake so it just made an ideal setting to have a rivalry.
- Notable Events: There hasn’t been much going on in recent history as far as playoff matches are concerned until the 2013 season where they met in the Western Conference semi-finals where it went to game 7. Detroit had a 3-1 series lead until Chicago stormed back and the final 3 games of the series to complete an amazing comeback to take the series 4-3. Brent Seabrook scored in overtime in game 7 to secure the last western conference final spot.
- Geographical Proximity: Close (453.3 km apart)
- Who’s On Top: Both teams have been very successful in the last 20 years with Detroit winning 4 Stanley Cups and Chicago winning 2 themselves. Detroit has made the playoffs every year in the past 20 years so Detroit is the undeniable winner here.
6. Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings
- Peak Years: 1996 to 2003
- Why: Both teams were very good in the mid to late 1990′s and at that time it was between thee 2 teams that fought for top spot in the west.
- Notable Events: An already fierce rivalry heated 10 fold when In Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals, Avalanche right winger Claude Lemieux, checked Red Wings center Kris Draper from behind, driving Draper’s face into the boards. The Avs won the series and eventually the Stanley Cup but a year later in the regular the season the same two teams faced each and it turned into an all out brawl as Patrick Roy skated out of his net to defend his teammate while he was getting pummeled with punches on the ice. Both teams had a deep hate for each other until their respective teams started to change its rosters around in 2003 which was when Patrick Roy retired.
- Geographical Proximity: Far (2041.1 km)
- Who’s On Top: Despite Colorado beating Detroit when the incident with Lemieux and Draper occurred, the Red Wings won 2 consecutive Stanley Cups after that and haven’t looked back. While Colorado went through a rebuilding stage starting in 2008, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup that year and kept trucking along so it’s a matter of competitiveness in the long run and Detroit won in that department.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
- Peak Years: Always was intense but from 2008 to present is at its all time peak.
- Why: Both teams are in the same division, they both meet in the playoffs on many occasions and the games between the two teams are mostly high-scoring, exciting and also have also known to have unexpected events occur.
- Notable Events: There have been many duels in the playoffs between these 2 teams but none better than the 2012 Eastern Conference quarter finals. The teams combined for an NHL-record 45 goals in the first four games as well as combining for 309 penalty minutes throughout the fight-filled six-game series. Many NHL players and media personalities commented that it was the most engaging series they had seen in a long time. Some even call it the “Greatest series of all-time”
- Geographical Proximity: Close (490.5 km apart)
- Who’s On Top: Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009 after beating Philly in the Eastern Conference final but Philadelphia against Pittsburgh head to head won more playoff series and more regular season games than Pittsburgh so in essence I’m giving the decision to Philadelphia.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators
- Peak Years: Always very intense during regular season but between 2000 and 2004 is where they played very spirited playoff hockey
- Why: It’s the Battle of Ontario and it’s always a great occasion to watch these 2 teams duke it out plus it’s at the center of the hockey universe.
- Notable Events: In 2002–03, the rivalry hit an all-time high when Tucker attacked the Senators’ Chris Neil, who was sitting on the bench. This resulted in numerous players exchanging punches before order was restored. Tucker, Neil and Shane Hnidy all received fighting majors and game misconducts for the same incident. After the game, Tucker claimed Neil spit on him, an allegation which Neil denied. Another incident in the regular season fueled the rivalry even more. On January 6, 2004, the Maple Leafs were playing a game against the Nashville Predators, when Leaf captain Mats Sundin’s stick broke on an attempted shot at the blue line and he threw it away in disgust. Instead of hitting the glass, the stick went over and into the crowd. The NHL reacted by giving him a one-game suspension. Ottawa and Toronto matched up in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years in 2003–04 and this was the last time they faced in the playoffs. Alfredsson guaranteed a victory after the Leafs took game 5. He delivered on his promise in game 6, but Ottawa goaltender Patrick Lalime turned in a lacklustre performance in the series finale, allowing the Leafs to beat the Senators in the series. After the series the Senators traded Lalime to the St. Louis Blues, and Ottawa head coach Jacques Martin was fired.
- Geographical Proximity: Close (542.4 km apart)
- Who’s On Top: Ottawa won more regular season games against the Leafs but Toronto has won far more playoff games so I’m giving the nod to Toronto.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
- Peak Years: 2005 to present
- Why: At first it was just a showcase between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby but then both teams got really good at the same team and then the playoff rivalry started to heat up. It’s a lot more important right now since both teams are now in the same division plus Ovechkin and Crosby are in the prime of their careers It’s the best modern era rivalry to date.
- Notable Events: These 2 teams have met in the playoffs 8 times since 1994. The 2009 Eastern Conference semi-finals is considered the best series to date in which the Capitals took a 2-0 series lead before letting it go to be downed in 7 games, ending with a 6-2 Game 7 loss at the Verizon Center. The two teams faced off at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic hosted in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, with the Capitals emerging victorious 3-1 that was the game where Sidney Crosby took a vicious elbow to the head in which he received a concussion. He was out for at least a year before returning in late 2012-2013 season.
- Geographical Proximity: Close (389.6 km apart)
- Who’s On Top: The Penguins won 7 out of 8 playoff series since 1994 so The Pens take the rivalry victory, no question about it.
2. Montreal Canadiens vs Boston Bruins
- Peak Years: In the past 20 years, the peak would have to be between 2002 and 2004 but had significant rivalry history between 1965 and 1979.
- Why: These 2 teams had more playoff games played against each other than any other match up. They’ve been playing against each other since the 1920′s so it’s fair to say just a little bit of a rivalry had formed since then (That was sarcastic btw).
- Notable Events: In 2002, Montreal upsets Boston as Habs goaltender Jose Theodore backstopped them to victory in game 6 as he made the “corkscrew on the ice blocker save” in which he’s so famous for. In 2004, the Bruins lost their first playoff series after having a 3–1 series lead, and it was the first time that the Canadiens had won a series in seven games after trailing 3–1. In 2011, Boston did win the Eastern Conference quarter finals against the Habs which eventually led them to winning the Stanley Cup during those playoffs.
- Geographical Proximity: Close (497.2 km apart)
- Who’s On Top: This is not even close. Montreal won 24 of 33 playoff series and and they are 347-269-103 in the regular season against the Bruins so it’s easy to say the Habs got this.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens
- Peak Years: Every year is a peak year when these legendary and historic foes go at it.
- Why: Such a silly question to ask a hockey fan why this is such a good rivalry. For those who don’t it’s because its what made hockey so popular in Canadian culture. No other rivalry has as much meaning as this one. It doesn’t matter if it’s a regular season game or a Eastern Conference final game 7, this has deep roots and there would be no NHL or CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada if it weren’t for these clubs. 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.
- Notable Events: Surprisingly, these teams have not met in the playoffs since 1979 but have met 15 times before that dating back to the first meeting in 1917. So in the last 20 years, nothing much has happened. Despite that there have been many entertaining regular season games between the 2 teams.
- Geographical Proximity: Close (543.2 km apart)
- Who’s On Top: Montreal narrowly edge Toronto in playoff series victories 8-7 and they also won more regular season games than the Leafs as well so Montreal comes up on top.
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