National Hockey League Atlantic Division Rivalries


National Hockey League Atlantic Division Rivalries

The Atlantic Division Rivalries are a collection of rivalries between the various teams that play in the National Hockey League's Atlantic Division. The New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers have been grouped together since being part of the Patrick Division in 1982, developing strong rivalries with one another. With the renaming of the Patrick Division to the Atlantic Division in 1994, minus the Penguins (they were moved to the Northeast Division until 1998), the rivalries became established and historic in their own way starting with the Rangers/Devils Game 7 match in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the realignment in 1998 the Devils, Flyers, Islanders, and Rangers remained together in the Atlantic Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins returning to the group. In the post-lockout NHL, the Atlantic Division rivalries have become more intense with season-ending comebacks, shrewd trades, and more games played against each other during the regular season. This is the only division in the NHL where all its members have won the Stanley Cup at least twice in their franchise history.

The strongest rivalries are:

* Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers
* Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
* New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers
* New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers
* New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers

Flyers vs. Rangers

The Flyers-Rangers rivalry is one of the most storied and well known rivalries ever in the National Hockey League. They have met ten times in Stanley Cup playoff contention, with the Flyers winning six of the series. On their way to a Stanley Cup title in 1973-74, the Flyers eliminated the Rangers in the Semifinals. The series went seven games, with the Rangers sealing their own fate, taking a too-many-men penalty in the waning moments of the game while trying to replace the goaltender with an extra attacker. The Rangers would defeat the Flyers in five games in the 1978-79 Quarterfinals on their way to a Stanley Cup Finals berth; the Flyers did the same to New York the subsequent year.

During the 1980s, the two teams met in the Patrick Division Semifinals 5 out of 6 seasons. Beginning in 1981-82, the Rangers defeated the Flyers in four games, then swept them in three straight in 1982-83. In 1984-85, the Flyers returned the favor by sweeping the Rangers, but in 1985-86, a "Cinderella" Rangers team got revenge, eliminating the Flyers in five. In
1986-87 the first round format was expanded to best-of-seven, and the Flyers eliminated the Rangers in six.

The Flyers and Rangers renewed their playoff rivalry once more when the two teams met in the playoffs in 1994-95 and 1996-97, both series won by the Flyers. The first series was bitter for the Rangers — the Flyers' four-game sweep eliminated the defending Cup champions in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Many Flyers fans remember this for the second game the Flyers won in overtime. Kevin Haller scored, sending normally laid-back Flyers color analyst Gary Dornhoefer into a frenzy. The latter series was the Eastern Conference Finals that sent the Flyers to the 1996-97 Stanley Cup Finals. With a 4-1 series win, it marked the last time the Rangers would make the playoffs until the 2005-06 season and it later turned out to be both Wayne Gretzky's and Mark Messier's last playoff game.

There is a mutual hatred between the sports fans from both New York City and Philly (for example, the heated rivalry between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball and the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League). Any time the two sets of fans get together for a hockey game, there are always nasty words exchanged, beers thrown at each other, and numerous fights in the stands. Flyers fans take great pride in their ability to buy large quantities of seats for Flyers games at Madison Square Garden, and starting fights with the home Rangers fans. Conversely, Ranger fans take great pride in their ability to buy large quantities of seats for Ranger games at the Flyers' Wachovia Center. It is also notable that Flyers fans usually chant "RANGERS SUCK", while Rangers fans yell "FLYERS SUCK" when the two teams match up. While there have not been as many fan incidents between the two teams in recent seasons, there is no love lost between the two fanbases. The Flyers-Rangers rivalry is considered to be one of, if not the best rivalry in the National Hockey League.

Battle of Pennsylvania: Flyers vs. Penguins

The rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins was born in 1967, when the teams were introduced into the NHL's "Next Six" expansion wave. The rivalry exists due to divisional alignment, and geographic locations, as both teams play in the state of Pennsylvania.

The rivalry was not as strong in earlier years, as the Penguins struggled in the NHL until the arrival of Mario Lemieux in 1984-85. The Flyers had achieved just the opposite, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1973-74 and 1974-75, and had been a perennial Cup contender since.

With the arrival of Lemieux in Pittsburgh, the Penguins slowly but surely gained respectability in the league and had begun to shed their image as one of the NHL's perennial doormats. In 1988-89, the Flyers and the Penguins met for the first time in the playoffs in the Patrick Division Finals. Despite the upstart talent on the Penguins roster led by Lemieux against the Flyers' aging core of players, the Penguins blew a 3 games to 2 lead and lost the series in seven games.

Despite the Flyers' victory, the series proved to be a turning point for both franchises. The Flyers fell from grace and missed the playoffs entirely for the next 5 seasons, while the Penguins continued to strengthen their ranks with the additions of Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis and Tom Barrasso among others, and won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1990-91 and 1991-92.

The rivalry continued at a frantic pace during the 1990s, with the arrival of Eric Lindros in Philadelphia, giving the Flyers a counterbalance against Lemieux. Lindros and Jagr were tied for the scoring lead in 1994-95, but the Art Ross Trophy was given to Jagr for scoring more goals than Lindros. Lindros won the Hart Memorial Trophy that season as MVP, with Lemieux winning it the following season in 1995-96, with Lindros as first runner-up. The two teams met again in the playoffs, in the 1996-97 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Flyers won in five games, while Lemieux retired at the end of the series. He would return to the Penguins in 2000-01.

Perhaps the pinnacle of the Flyers-Penguins rivalry occurred during the 1999-00 season, when the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Flyers had won the division and the No.1 seed in the East, while the Penguins snuck into the playoffs as the 7th seed. Despite this, the Penguins jumped out to a 2 games to none lead in the series, winning both games in Philadelphia. The Flyers won Game 3 in overtime, but NHL history was made in Game 4. Tied at 1, the game stretched to five overtime periods and set the record for the longest game played in the modern era of the NHL. Keith Primeau's goal at the 92:01 mark gave the Flyers a 2-1 win and a 2-2 split in the series. The outcome energized the Flyers and demoralized the Penguins, as the Flyers went on to win the next two games and the series.

In 2006-07, the Penguins defeated the Flyers in all eight matchups between the two teams, and Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury became the first goalie to defeat a team eight times in a season since 1967-68.

During the 2007-08 season the Flyers won five games and the Penguins won three of the season series. The series was highlighted by an 8-2 win by the Flyers and a 7-1 win by the Penguins.

The Flyers and Penguins faced off in the 2007-08 Eastern Conference Finals, won by the Penguins in 5 games for the Penguins' first-ever playoff series win against the Flyers.

Both teams have achieved great popularity amongst their fans. The rivalry is quite intense among fans of both teams. Games between the two teams are often very physical. Some regard the matchup as one of (if not) the best rivalry in the league and the incredibly passionate and exciting games give credence to this.

Hudson River Rivalry: Rangers vs. Devils

The Rangers-Devils Rivalry is known as the "Hudson River Rivalry", and 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, the home ice of the Devils. Travel between both arenas is easily accomplished by both roads (usually through the Lincoln Tunnel) and rails (along the Northeast Corridor).

Like many great rivalries in sports (like the Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry in baseball and the Patriots-Jets Rivalry in football), the Rangers and Devils enjoy going after each other's rosters, signing former talent from each franchise. In the past ten years, the Devils have acquired former Rangers such as Valeri Kamensky, Kevin Weekes, Sergei Nemchinov, Karel Rachunek, Esa Tikkanen, John Vanbiesbrouck, and Bernie Nicholls. Meanwhile the Rangers have plucked players like Scott Gomez, Bruce Driver, Mike Dunham, Petr Sýkora, Brendan Shanahan, Bobby Holik (recently, Bobby Holik has returned to the Devils), and Pat Verbeek away from the Devils. The two organizations have even raided each other's front offices. For example, after Rangers head coach Herb Brooks was fired during the 1984-85 season, he resurfaced as head coach of the Devils in 1992-93. The Rangers reciprocated in 2007, hiring former Devils bench boss Jim Schoenfeld as their assistant general manager.

For over 25 years, fans of both the Rangers and Devils have seen the best out of both their clubs whenever they meet. Despite the Devils' overall playoff superiority since the 1990s, the first three playoff series between these teams were all Rangers victories. Their first meeting occurred in the spring of 1992, when the Presidents' Trophy-winning Rangers survived a seven-game Patrick Division Semifinal series with the Devils.

The rivalry's most famous moments, however, are centered around the teams' second encounter: the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Although both teams were the top point-getters in the NHL in 1994 (the Presidents' Trophy-winning Rangers netting 112 and the Devils notching 106), the story entering the series was the Rangers' 6-0 record against New Jersey that regular season. However, all ideas of a quick New York series were soon ended after Game 1, a 4-3 double overtime victory that was sealed by the Devils' Stephane Richer. The Rangers routed the Devils 4-0 in Game 2, and used a double overtime goal by Stephane Matteau to take a 2-1 lead after Game 3. After dropping Games 4 and 5, the Rangers faced elimination going to New Jersey for Game 6. Prior to the game, Rangers captain Mark Messier guaranteed a victory in Game 6 at the Meadowlands; with the Rangers down 2-0 to the Devils, Messier scored a hat trick to tie the series at 3-3 and send it back to New York for Game 7. In Game 7, the Devils' Valeri Zelepukin tied the game with 7.7 seconds left in regulation, but thanks to another Matteau goal in double overtime the Rangers won the series and went on to win the Stanley Cup over the Vancouver Canucks. Interestingly, the first six games were won by the team that lost that respective game in 1992. That trend was reversed when the Rangers won Game 7 in '94.

The 3rd Devils-Rangers playoff series happened only 3 years later. The Rangers, led by Messier, eliminated the Devils in the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinals. New Jersey was limited to five goals in the five-game series, including two shutout losses.

From the start of 1998, however, the pendulum began to swing the other way. New Jersey dominated New York during the regular season in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At one point, the Devils had an unbeaten streak against the Rangers throughout 23 regular season games going 15-0-8; starting on February 17, 1997 and ending March 31, 2001 — an undefeated streak spanning four years.

At the end of the 2005-06 season, the Devils had won 11 games straight — the second such streak of the season — and capped off the run by winning the Atlantic Division in comeback fashion against the Montreal Canadiens, a division win made all the more exciting by the fact that the Devils had been 22 points out of the lead just 3 months prior, with many thinking the team wouldn't make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Rangers had the division lead for most of the latter part of the season, but fell victim to a losing skid as the season came to a close. The Devils took the Division title away from the Rangers by ending the season with 1 more point than New York. As fate would have it, the white-hot Devils met the Rangers in their 4th playoff meeting in the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The result was a four-game sweep by New Jersey over their cross-river rivals for the first time ever in franchise history.

Two years later, the teams would meet yet again in the playoffs for the 5th time, in the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. After long time Devil Scott Gomez signed with the Rangers before the 2007-08 season, he has been severely booed by Devils fans at the Prudential Center every time he touched the puck. Gomez scored 3 assists in Game 1 and 2 goals in Game 4 against his former team en route to a Rangers series win. In Game 3, Ranger Sean Avery used a tactic to screen opposing goaltender Martin Brodeur. While essentially ignoring the play on the ice when his team had a two-man advantage, Avery faced Brodeur and waved his hands and stick in front of him in an attempt to distract him and block his view. Although not illegal, many NHL commentators and players described Avery's actions as inappropriate. The following day, the NHL issued an interpretation of the league's unsportsmanlike conduct rule to cover actions such as the one employed by Avery. [cite news| url=http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs2008/news/story?id=3346729 | title=NHL amends unsportsmanlike conduct rule in response to Avery's antics | publisher=ESPN.com | date=2008-04-14 | accessdate=2008-04-14] Following the Rangers victory in Game 5 of the series during the hand-shake line, Brodeur shook the hand of every Ranger except Avery. When asked what happened after the game, Avery said "I guess Fatso (Brodeur) forgot to shake my hand".

Fans on both sides have agreed the rivalry has become even stronger as of late, due in large part to the fact that both teams have shown much more parity towards each other. Many hockey analysts within the media have referred to them as "mirror teams" given their many similarities. Since the NHL Lockout, the two teams have met a total of 33 times. (including postseason games) The Devils have won 15 of these contests, the Rangers have won 18.

Many Rangers fans have been seen burning Devils memorabilia after Ranger victories over the Devils, and lighting their cigarettes with it, while exiting Madison Square Garden. Devils fans, meanwhile, enjoy making confetti which reads "Rangers Suck" and handing them out during games at the Continental Airlines Arena and currently at the Prudential Center. The Jersey fans also have a cheer that is yelled and whistled at every game. In response to the "Let's Go Band"/"Potvin Sucks" chant of Rangers fans against the Islanders, the Devils fans at the Prudential Center cheer "Rangers Suck." This chant, just like the Potvin chant being heard whether the Rangers are playing the Islanders or not, is heard at every Devils home game.Fact|date=February 2007 The Rangers and Devils rivalry is popular among fans, due to the geographic proximity, which is seen as a battle between the neighboring states of New York and New Jersey. While Devils fans will occasionally attend games at Madison Square Garden in large numbers (especially during the final two games of the 2006 series sweep), Rangers fans have historically showed up at both the Meadowlands and now the Prudential Center in extremely large numbers.

This rivalry was satirized in pop-culture with the Seinfeld episode "The Face Painter" in which David Puddy, a hard-core Devils fan, paints his face red at a playoff game against the Rangers in the Garden, to the embarrassment of Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine.

The rivalry between the teams is so intense that the Rangers are the only NHL team with which the Devils have never made a trade. [New Jersey Devils Media Guide, 2006-07]

Battle of the Jersey Turnpike: Devils vs. Flyers

Although these two teams faced each other on a regular basis since the Devils' relocation from Denver in 1982, the rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils took off with their first playoff meeting in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, when the Devils eliminated the Flyers in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals en route to winning the Stanley Cup. The turning point of the series came in Game 5, when Claude Lemieux scored from 65 feet out, sending a wobbly puck past Flyer goalie Ron Hextall, with 44 seconds left in regulation of a tie game. The series was considered an upset, as the Devils were the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, while the Flyers had made a dramatic improvement to end their five-year playoff drought by winning the division and the 2nd seed in the East, and were led by eventual Hart Memorial Trophy winner, captain Eric Lindros. Lindros and Devils captain Scott Stevens were afterwards known for their on-ice feuds.

During the 1999-2000 regular season, the Devils were leading in both the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division, but their 10-game slump near the end of the season resulted the Flyers overtaking them for both the division title and the No.1 seed in the East. They would meet once again in the Eastern Conference Finals; this time, the Flyers blew a 3-1 series lead over the Devils, including losing 3 of the 4 games played in Philadelphia. Game 7 of this series would also be the final game for Eric Lindros as a Flyer, suffering a concussion at the hands of Stevens, whose controversial hit was viewed by some as the key moment of the Devils' playoff run. The loss in 2000 has been attributed by some Flyers fans to The Curse of Billy Penn, as the Devils would go on to win the Cup by beating the defending champion Dallas Stars in 6 games.

The Flyers would finally defeat the Devils in the playoffs in 2003-04, when they eliminated the defending Cup champs 4 games to 1 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

This rivalry has become quite intense in New Jersey itself, sometimes referred to as the "Battle of the Jersey Turnpike", with the northern part of the state being the Devils fanbase, while the southern part of the state is overwhelmingly Flyers fans due to South Jersey's close proximity to Philadelphia. The Flyers practice in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, and since their Stanley Cup days of 1973-74 and 1974-75, many members of the Cup teams (as well as other Flyers alumni) have lived in South Jersey.

In 2006-07, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur broke Philadelphia legend Bernie Parent's single season wins record of 47 by earning his 48th win against the Flyers. Flyers fans booed Brodeur and the milestone was not announced by the Flyers' PA announcer at game's end. Nevertheless, Parent offered his praise. [http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app?service=page&page=Recap&gameNumber=1200&season=20062007&gameType=2/] Brodeur also notched his 500th career victory at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia in 2007-08. This time, the milestone was announced by the PA announcer. In "typical Philly fashion", the Flyers fans booed Brodeur and his latest achievement.

The first meeting between the two franchises was in the 1977-78 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and had no geographic significance. The Devils were then known as the Colorado Rockies. The Flyers took the best-of-three Preliminary Round series 2-0. It was the only playoff series the team would play in during their six seasons in Denver, and the only one they would play in during their first 13 seasons of play, until 1987-88.

The rivalry has taken on an even further extension in 2007-08; the Flyers had an ECHL affiliate in Trenton, New Jersey - the Trenton Titans, from 1999, including the 2005 Kelly Cup Championship. In 2006, the team was sold to the New Jersey Devils, which flipped the team's affiliation after the 2006-07 ECHL season and nickname to reflect its new ownership and identity, now known as the Trenton Devils. The Flyers do not have a full-time ECHL affiliate for the 2007-08 ECHL season, sharing an affilitation with cross-state rival Pittsburgh at Wheeling, WV.

Battle of New York: Rangers vs. Islanders

The Islanders-Rangers Rivalry was established when the NHL awarded a second franchise in the New York metropolitan area. With the impending start of the World Hockey Association in the fall of 1972, the upstart league had plans to place a team in the new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Nassau County. The National Hockey League did not want the competition in the nation's largest metro area,Verify source|date=April 2007 so despite having expanded two years before, the NHL awarded franchises to Atlanta and Long Island. The fledgling New York Islanders had an extra burden to pay in the form of a $4 million territorial fee to the nearby New York Rangers.

In 1975, the Islanders made their first trip to the NHL playoffs, facing the heavily favored Rangers in a best-of-three first-round series. After splitting the first two games, the Islanders won Game 3, and the series, when J.P. Parise scored 11 seconds into overtime. The teams met again in the 1979 playoffs; this time the underdog Rangers were victorious, eliminating the heavily favoured Islanders in 6 games and earning a spot in the Stanley Cup finals. This was particularly memorable as it continued the Isles' reputation for playoff "chokes" despite finishing first in the league during the regular season.

The teams also met in the playoffs every year from 1981-84; the Islanders won each series by margins of 4-0, 4-2, 4-2 and 3-2 enroute to 4 finals and three Stanley Cups (in addition to their 1980 win to make it four championships and 5 finals in a row). The closeness of the 1984 series led it to be nicknamed the "Battle of New York".Fact|date=February 2007 In the 1990s, the teams met twice, with the Rangers winning 4-1 in 1990, and sweeping the Islanders 4-0 in 1994, en route to winning their first Stanley Cup since 1940.

The rivalry heated up in the regular season. Before the 1995-96 season the Isles attempt to updating their look resulted in the unveiling of the fisherman logo, it proved to be such a disaster as Rangers fans mock the Isles with chants of "we want fishsticks" a reference to the way the logo resembled the Gorton's fisherman. The Isles reverted back to their original logo with an updated version.

With both teams' fans visiting "enemy territory" for games, organized shouting matches and fights break out in the stands.Ranger fans often refer to the Nassau Coliseum as "Garden East" or the "Mausoleum", as Ranger fans sometimes make up as much as one third of the crowd when as the visitor on Long Island. The Rangers' fanbase generally comes from the city's five boroughs, Westchester, Fairfield, and Rockland Counties while the Islanders tend to draw fans from Nassau and Suffolk counties, and parts of eastern Queens. Fans will direct derisive chants at their rivals regardless of whether the teams are actually playing. At each home game, Ranger fans engage in perhaps their most popular chant: humming the song "Let's Go Band" and punctuating it with "Potvin sucks", referring to retired Islander Hall of Fame defenseman Denis Potvin. Rangers fans also occasionally bring out the chant "Beat your wife, Potvin, beat your wife", a reference to unconfirmed allegations that Potvin has committed domestic abuse.

Islander fans taunted Rangers fans for many years with the chant "Nineteen Forty", referring to the Rangers having the all-time longest drought without winning the Stanley Cup, until the Blueshirts finally won in 1994. For a period in the late '90s and early 2000s, Islanders fans would punctuate the "Chicken Dance" with chants of "the Rangers suck". The Islanders had stopped playing the song at games for a length of time but as of the 2007-2008 season the song is played solely at Islanders-Rangers games. Rangers winger Theoren Fleury used the chant as an excuse for flapping his arms to taunt Islanders enforcer Eric Cairns. In addition a popular chant was "Crackhead Theo!" referring to Fleury's erratic behavior and history of substance abuse at the time. Islanders fans also sing a song to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It", replacing the standard lyrics with "If you know the Rangers suck, clap your hands."

One well-known incident at an Islanders/Philadelphia Flyers game in 2003 turned an innocent holiday promotion at Nassau Coliseum into a on-ice shoving match between Rangers and Islanders fans in Santa suits.

One incident that has been rumored was a brawl between fans of the two teams at a New York Mets game at Shea Stadium in the late 70's or early '80's.

As of 2008, the Rangers and Islanders are tied in the all-time series with 100 wins, 100 losses (including overtime and shootout losses), and 19 ties. In the playoffs, however, the Islanders hold the lead with a 20-19 record, and have won five of the eight playoff series' between the two teams.

Since 2001, the Pat LaFontaine Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the Rangers-Islanders regular season series. The winning team receives a trophy to parade around for their fans and bragging rights for another year, while the losing team must make a $50,000 contribution to the charity of Pat LaFontaine's choice.

References


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