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Ranking Flyers' rivalries


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From Jim Jackson on CSN

Being at Madison Square Garden over the weekend and taking in the excitement surrounding the buildup to the Bridgestone Winter Classic and the matchup with the Rangers reminded me of how much I appreciate the rivalry that exists between the two clubs.

There is just something special in the air when the Broad Street Bullies meet the Broadway Blueshirts. This is precisely why the league chose these two clubs for this season’s Jan. 2 outdoor showdown.

It got me to thinking about which teams currently rate as top rivals to the Flyers. Any list of a team’s most intense opponents is bound to be quite fluid. Playoff meetings tend to be the surest way to create a rival. Thus, if a certain club appears on the postseason schedule frequently, a rivalry is bound to be enhanced.

But other factors are involved, too. As we currently sit, here are the teams I consider the top five rivals of the Flyers, in reverse order.

5. New Jersey Devils

As recently as three or four seasons ago, the Devils would have been much higher on the list. From 1995-2007, either the Flyers or the Devils wound up at the top of the Atlantic Division. They were constantly battling for divisional superiority.

And for quite a while, the Devils seemed to keep getting in the way of the Flyers' Stanley Cup dreams, twice beating the Flyers on the way to their own Cups and taking three during one nine-year stretch. That certainly was a bitter pill to swallow for Flyer fans, intensifying the rivalry.

However, the Flyers conquered those demons to some degree with playoff series victories over New Jersey in 2004 and 2010. And with the Devils now having run into some serious postseason issues of their own (no playoff series wins in four seasons), the edge to this rivalry has softened some.

Still, the Devils are just an hour-and-a-half up the New Jersey Turnpike. Proximity also plays a part. They are still in the same division. And three banners hang from the rafters in their new home, the Prudential Center, as a cruel reminder to Philadelphia fans of what the Devils accomplished, sometimes at the Flyers’ expense.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning

The animosity between the Flyers and Lightning is beginning to perk up again. These two clubs have a little history to build upon. They experienced two ferociously competitive playoff series, with each team claiming victory once. They even, once upon a time, came close to blows in the parking lot, gang style, outside of the St. Pete Times Forum.

But it is much more the present that leads me to put the Bolts on this list. The gamesmanship that took place in Tampa in mid-November serves to set the stage for more of the same in future meetings. Guy Boucher sometimes orders his club to sit back and the Flyers are bound and determined to wait them out.

The Flyers seemed to get most of the media and public support for trying to expose Boucher’s strategy. However, the Lightning eventually took home an overtime victory. We’ll call it a draw and await the next meeting next week. Either way, such intrigue creates a rivalry.

3) Boston Bruins

Back in the ‘70s, this was one of the NHL’s top rivalries. The Broad Street Bullies vs. the Big Bad Bruins. They were frequent playoff opponents and, of course, met in the 1974 Final as the Flyers upset the B’s to take their first Cup.

After a couple of decades in hibernation (pardon the pun), this rivalry is back. All it took was a couple of playoff meetings. The Flyers' epic comeback from down 0-3 in 2010 will live on for ages. But, Boston fans may choose to point out the Bruins' sweep the following year that not only helped push them to a Stanley Cup, but also led to a personnel shakeup in Philly.

When the Flyers opened this season by spoiling the Bruins’ banner raising party at TD Garden, one more log was thrown onto the fire of this once again red hot rivalry.

2. New York Rangers

The only thing missing from this rivalry in recent years has been postseason confrontations. These teams haven’t met in the playoffs since 1997. In most cases, the buzz between two teams would fade with so much time between a series against one another. Not so in this instance.

Perhaps it’s simply the New York-Philadelphia thing. Or maybe it's agitators such as Sean Avery and Scott Hartnell stirring the pot. But, somehow, there is always extra excitement in the air when the Flyers and Rangers meet. The NHL clearly understood that in scheduling these two clubs for the Winter Classic.

Call it a smoldering rivalry right now. By the time the "24/7" documentary is done building things up and the outdoor game takes place on Jan. 2, Rangers-Flyers will find an even higher level in intensity and animosity. It will most likely do more than any playoff series would in fanning those smoldering flames of a rivalry.

1) Pittsburgh Penguins

What’s been missing from the Flyers’ season thus far? A meeting with the Penguins, that’s what.

Hard to believe that nearly one-third of the season will have passed before hockey’s Battle of Pennsylvania is on display. But soon enough (Dec. 8), the Wells Fargo Center will be humming with electricity as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pens come to town.

This rivalry has it all. The cities are relatively close so the respective fan bases get many opportunities to interact. The clubs have met twice in the postseason in recent years. And, there are central figures for villains, starting with Sid the Kid (can we still call him that?) who has become one of the more reviled opposing sports figures in our town.

It’s no wonder fans from both cities and members of the respective organizations were less than pleased with an NHL realignment proposal that would put the two teams in different divisions, seeing each other only twice all season. The Battle of Pennsylvania needs more exposure than that.

As mentioned earlier, this list is current. I wouldn’t be shocked if in about seven weeks I was asked to construct such a list and the Rangers were No. 1. The buildup to the Winter Classic could have that kind of impact. We shall see.

In the meantime, 21 of the Flyers' final 59 games are against teams from the list above. That makes for some great matchups and rivalry renewals. Should be a lot of fun.

E-mail Jim Jackson at jjackson@comcastsportsnet.com

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1) Pitt (going back to the 2 am OT goal in my books)

2) Boston (2010 SC playoffs comes to mind)

3) Rangers (1st Flyers game I saw live and we lost, so I have hated them since)

4) Buffalo (going back to when Lindy had a beer chucked at him 11 years ago)

5) NJ (bastards robbed us of a cup in 2000 and killed Eric Lindros' career)

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I'd slide Montreal at 4th of the original list. They have our number in the regular season (Flyers are a staggeringly terrible 9-17), we have theirs in the playoffs (3-1 of last four series going back to 1987).

Plus, I relish the 'Ole chant mockery.

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I would say the Penguins are our top rival. That is the team that gets my blood boiling the most now that Cindy is back.

The Rangers would be second. Partly due to NY and partly due to Avery.

I would go Buffalo third. For a team not in our division, they certainly seem to have some physical and nasty games.

That's pretty much as it as rivalries go in this crappy Post Lockup Bettman hockey league. I remember when the league pre-lockout was filled with fierce and bitter rivalries with plenty of hitting, fighting and hatred for the opposition. This Bettman hockey has really killed a lot of the bitter rivalries that used to be out there.

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The Penguins are the top rival recently, but certainly not all time. They usually have sucked far more than they have been good, and the 2 extra guys they usually get on their side kind of spoils it.

The Devils and the Rangers definitely over the past 20 years, although recently neither has been much in focus.

Tampa is a recent blip.

The Sabres go back a long time, but the Flyers have dominated them with one noted exception in the post season.

The Caps are a rival for me, only because I live in the DC area and have spent 20 years trying to garner interest in the local team so I have someone to go with when the Flyers come to town. Since that ******* horn in the stands and the "rock the red" pu$$y fest I have begun to seriously dislike the Capitals.

The Senators are up there when it comes time for looking for a good old fashioned brawl.

The Habs, eh, only because they are the only team with a better regular season franchise record than the Flyers.

The Bruins goes without saying, very much like the Flyers, only with better goaltending and worse offense.

Lots of rivalries, I love them all!

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The Rags will always be #1 on my sh!t list.

Between 73 and 87 they met in the playoffs 8 or 9 times, brutal series' and that '86 upset in a 5 game series, that kinda hate never fades

I agree. Its Rangers for me too. Devils had the first spot in the beginning of the millenium for awhile with their booooring trap-system. I dont live in philly (obviously) so I miss the real rivalty feeling, I guess the pens really push your buttons overthere. To me its:

1.Ranger

2.Devils

3.Pens

4.Toronto (its personal)

5.Boston

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Caps games are ultra annoying

The fans there don't know how or when to initiate their own spontaneous cheers, they need direction.

I love watching a Flyers' away game, and you can hear the "Let's Go Fly-ers!" chants over the home fans. Obviously THEY don't need any phony props to get in sync.

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I hate everybody....But

The Rangers also make my blood boil a bit more because of the whole Bernie-Eye-Injury

Crosby makes me nuts (and Kasper essentially ended Lindros's career), but 2000 was a hoot

Devils got in the way too often, but hard not to have respect for MB, future HOF'r.

Earlier, it was the Oilers that got in the way,....

But all in all it is the Rags for me. the have been #1 for waaaaaay to long

Fark them

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It's interesting that for always being in our division that the Isles make no one's list. They don't make mine, either. 30 years ago, yeah, but not now.

For me:

1. Pittsburgh

2. New York Rangers

3. New Jersey Devils

4. Washington Capitals

5. Boston Bruins

It's funny. Without the nonsense on the silly.com board, I wouldn't even think twice about Buffalo or Toronto. Sure, we have (Buffalo) or had (Toronto) some playoff history against both, but I just don't circle the calendar for games with them like I do for the other five. None of the other teams in the league come close to that list for me.

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The Rags will always be #1 on my sh!t list.

Between 73 and 87 they met in the playoffs 8 or 9 times, brutal series' and that '86 upset in a 5 game series, that kinda hate never fades

EXACTLY! I'm on the same page... I have nothing to add--you took the words right out of my keyboard.

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