The greatest rivalries in the
Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins
Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs
Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers
Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
The rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens is considered to be one of the greatest in sport and has lasted for almost a century. Two of the Original Six franchises, they have faced each other more times than any other teams in NHL history.
The Canadiens have won more Stanley Cups than any other team in history and four times as many as the Bruins. However the two teams have dominated their respective conferences and divisions to a similar extent.
Longest winning streaK
The most infamous chapter in their rivalry was a violent on-ice fight centred around Canadiens’ star player Maurice Richard. While launching a retaliatory attack on Bruins’ Hal Laycoe - who had high-sticked him in the head - he punched a linesman unconscious and was suspended for the remainder of the season. Outraged Canadiens fans rioted at their next home game in protest, causing extensive damage.
March 1955: the Richard Riot
May 1979: too many men
With the Bruins on the verge of ending a run of 13 play-off defeats to the Canadiens, they threw away a 4-3 lead in the final minutes of the pivotal semi-final game. Penalised for having too many men on the ice, the resulting power play saw their opponents equalise to force overtime, during which they scored again. The Montreal side advanced and went on to win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.
April 2011: revenge in overtime
Boston had lost four of their six regular season meetings with the Canadiens - one of which saw six fights - and the first two games at home in what looked set to be another disappointing play-off encounter. However the Bruins won the next three and went into the final game with the series tied, snatching a dramatic victory in overtime and going on to win their first championship in 39 years.
The Canadiens have maintained a comfortable edge in both the regular season and the play-offs, including a 13-game winning streak against the Bruins.
Detroit Red Wings
A single incident - more on that later - spilled over into one of the most brutal fights in NHL history and one of its most intense rivalries to date. These two teams were regular postseason opponents from 1996 to 2002, generating plenty of bloody and entertaining encounters.
The Red Wings’ trophy room is the grander of the two by far, with 11 Stanley Cups to Colorado’s two.
In May 1996, Avalanche player Claude Lemiuex lit the fuse on this rivalry by checking opposing Centre Kris Draper into the boards - in front of the Red Wings bench - with sufficient force for his victim to require facial reconstructive surgery. When the two teams met the following March it was unbridled chaos. There were nine fights in total - including one between the goaltenders - with Lemieux often the target.
March 1997: Bloody Wednesday
November 1997: Lemieux hits back
Less than six months after Bloody Wednesday, Claude Lemieux and Red Wings’ enforcer Darren McCarty could barely wait until the opening face-off to renew hostilities. McCarty was the hero of the original encounter after pummelling Lemieux and scoring the winning goal, so was an obvious target. The two men launched into each other immediately here to the delight of the crowd.
May 2002: Red Wings’ rout
The 2002 Western Conference Final went down to the final game, but Colorado appeared to be in the ascendancy as reigning champions and having won three of their previous four postseason meetings. The Red Wings hadn’t read the script however and stunned their opponents with a dominant 7-0 victory. Legendary Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy had a torrid time and was substituted to jeers after conceding the sixth.
This is one of the NHL’s more evenly-matched rivalries, with the Red Wings just shading things on the ice.
Known as the “Battle of Alberta'', the rivalry between the province’s two largest cities has often played out on the ice. This peaked in the 1980s when the Flames and Oilers were vying for supremacy in the NHL.
All of Alberta’s six Stanley Cup wins came between 1984 and 1990, with the Oilers claiming five to the Flames’ solitary 1989 triumph.
Oilers’ defenceman Steve Smith had a birthday to forget in game seven of the division final. With the score tied at 2-2, his reckless clearance cannoned off his goaltender’s leg and ended up in his own net. Smith collapsed to the ice in horror and the Oilers went on to be eliminated. However, Smith’s team-mates stood by him and the team would go on to win the Stanley Cup with him the following year.
April 1986: Smith’s own goal
Gretzky douses the Flames
Another division final two years later ended more happily for the Oilers when the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, inspired a clean sweep. During overtime at the end of a close-fought contest tied at 4-4, the Flames had a golden opportunity to win the game with their opponents short-handed. However a quick pass released Gretzky who - already at full stride - slammed the puck into the corner.
Eberle announces himself
One of the best debut goals in NHL history saw Jordan Eberle write himself into Battle of Alberta folklore. With the Oilers on the penalty kill, Eberle received the puck at speed on the right before deking past a sprawling defenceman, cutting across and tucking it into the bottom left corner of the net. He would go on to add an assist in what ended as a comfortable 4-0 win.
The Flames have enjoyed the better results overall when the two have met, but the Oilers have often come out on top in their play-off encounters.
Toronto Maple Leafs
A recently-established Canadian feud began in the late 1990s following the modern Senators’ founding, although Toronto-Ottawa hockey rivalries predate the NHL itself. The “Battle of Ontario” is a regular highlight in the Atlantic Division.
While the Senators were founded in 1992, it took a realignment of the conferences in 1998 to throw them and the Maple Leafs together. Their first postseason encounter in 2000 saw plenty of drama, with an overtime winner in game five tipping the scales in the Maple Leafs’ favour. Some fans considered this revenge for a regular season clash that saw Bryan Berard almost lose an eye.
April 2000: play-off revenge
Sundin strikes in overtime
Overtime goals have been a regular feature of play-off games between these two teams, with Mats Sundin’s rocket in 2001 the pick of the bunch. The first game in the Eastern Conference quarter-finals was goalless until Sundin found himself in space with time to pick his spot. The Swede blasted the puck home from 47 feet, winning the game and triggering a sweep for the Maple Leafs.
Animosity for Alfredsson
In the following postseason, another Swedish player became responsible for ratcheting up this rivalry. In a span of just six seconds, the Senators’ Daniel Alfredsson drew the ire of Maple Leafs fans after he slammed Darcy Tucker into the boards from behind, turning around in time to receive the puck and convert the winning goal unpunished while his victim was still writhing on the floor
Another rivalry with a martial-sounding nickname, the “Battle of Pennsylvania” began when both teams were introduced to the NHL in the 1967 “Next Six” expansion wave. The feud has been rekindled in recent years due to regular meetings in the postseason.
The first play-off meeting between these two teams set the tone for their rivalry, with the fifth game of the series standing out. The Penguins scored six times in the first period, with Mario Lemieux grabbing four, and a spirited Flyers comeback saw the game finish with an incredible 10-7 scoreline. The drama didn’t end there, with the Flyers winning the remaining two games to reach the Conference Finals.
April 1989: a goal extravaganza
May 2000: a marathon on ice
It took five periods of overtime to settle the fourth game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, making it the third-longest game in NHL play-off history at just over 152 minutes. After more than two-and-a-half hours of play, Keith Primeau finally won the game for the Flyers to tie the series at 2-2, with two subsequent wins seeing them progress from an exhausting encounter.
Talbot shushes Wells Fargo
In the sixth game of a play-off quarter-final series in which they were 3-2 up, the Penguins found themselves three goals behind early in the second period. Max Talbot attempted to raise his team’s spirits by starting a fight with Flyers’ enforcer Daniel Carcillo and in the aftermath raised a finger to his lips to shush the cheering Philadelphia crowd. The gamble paid off, with a reinvigorated Penguins side firing in five unanswered goals to win the series.
While their play-off encounters have been fairly even overall, the Flyers’ record in their regular season encounters is superior. This owes a lot to their 42-game unbeaten home run against the Penguins between 1977 and 1989.
While the Flyers have had the better of their rivalry, the Penguins have lifted the Stanley Cup more than twice as often in their history.