National Hockey League Atlantic Division rivalries: Wikis


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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, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins 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 1994 Eastern Conference Finals series. With division 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 of its members have won the Stanley Cup, each having won at least twice.

The strongest rivalries are:


Battle of the Jersey Turnpike 1: Flyers vs. Rangers

New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Overall records[1]
Regular season games: 107–106–37 PHI
Regular season series: 18–16–7 NYR
Post season games: 27–20 PHI
Post season series: 6–4 PHI
Post season meetings[1]
Year Round Series
1974 Semifinals 4–3 PHI
1979 Quarterfinals 4–1 NYR
1980 Quarterfinals 4–1 PHI
1982 Div. semifinals 3–1 NYR
1983 Div. semifinals 3–0 NYR
1985 Div. semifinals 3–0 PHI
1986 Div. semifinals 3–2 NYR
1987 Div. semifinals 4–2 PHI
1995 Conf. semifinals 4–0 PHI
1997 Conf. finals 4–1 PHI

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, and they have been division rivals since the 1974–75 season. 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 defeated 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, the Rangers did 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 have met ten different times in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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 1997 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 long-standing bitter rivalry between the sports fans from both New York City and Philadelphia, seen also 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. Games at both the Wachovia Center and Madison Square Garden are often very intense, as each home crowd does its best to create an unfriendly and sometimes volatile atmosphere for any visiting-team fans. The Flyers-Rangers rivalry is considered to be one of, if not the best rivalry in the National Hockey League.

The coach of the Flyers from 1984 to 1988, Mike Keenan, was coach of the Rangers during their championship season of 1994.

Battle of the Jersey Turnpike 2: Devils vs. Flyers

New Jersey Devils
Philadelphia Flyers
Overall records[2]
Regular season games: 83–65–15 NJ
Regular season series: 15–11 NJ
Post season games: 9–9 tie
Post season series: 2–1 NJ
Post season meetings[2]
Year Round Series
1995 Conf. finals 4–2 NJ
2000 Conf. finals 4–3 NJ
2004 Conf. quarterfinals 4–1 PHI

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 (and fellow Montrealer) 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[3] even though he didn't have the benefit of overtime or shootouts in his era (12 of Brodeur's 48 wins were in overtime or the shootout). 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 and was booed. Furthermore, on Sunday, March 1, 2009, Brodeur recorded his 100th career regular season shutout during a home game versus the Flyers. Brodeur recorded 27 saves in the 3-0 victory.

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' ECHL affiliate is now the Kalamazoo Wings.

Hudson River Rivalry: Rangers vs. Devils

Battle of Pennsylvania: Flyers vs. Penguins

Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall records[4]
Regular season games: 132–80–30 PHI
Regular season series: 29–10–2 PHI
Post season games: 15–14 PHI
Post season series: 3–2 PHI
Post season meetings[4]
Year Round Series
1989 Div. finals 4–3 PHI
1997 Conf. quarterfinals 4–1 PHI
2000 Conf. semifinals 4–2 PHI
2008 Conf. finals 4–1 PIT
2009 Conf. quarterfinals 4–2 PIT

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. When the NHL realigned divisions prior to the 1974–75 season, the two Pennsylvania teams were moved to separate divisions. The Penguins spent the next seven seasons in the Norris Division and became the Flyers division rivals once again upon joining the Patrick Division in 1981–82.

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 during the 1990s with the arrival of Eric Lindros in Philadelphia, which gave the Flyers a counterbalance against Lemieux. But further divisional realignment split the teams up again in 1993–94 and the Penguins spent the next five seasons in the Northeast Division. 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 and Lemieux retired for the first time at the end of the series. After Game 5, Lemieux skated around the ice and received a standing ovation from the Philadelphia crowd. He had previously received a standing ovation from the Philadelphia crowd in March 1993 after returning from radiation treatments.

Perhaps the pinnacle of the Flyers-Penguins rivalry occurred during the 1999–2000 season, when the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. A season after the Penguins joined the Atlantic Division, the Flyers had won the division and the 1st 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.

The rivalry between the two teams lost its luster in the years leading up to the 2004–05 NHL lockout as the Penguins struggled on and off the ice, dropping to the bottom of not only the league standings but the attendance rankings as well.[5]

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. The Flyers have swept the season series twice, winning all four games during the 1980–81 season and winning all seven games during the 1983–84 season.

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. A year later in the 2008-09 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals the Penguins beat the Flyers again, winning the series 4-2 on their way to winning a Stanley Cup.

In an October 8, 2009 regular season game, Penguins defenseman Kris Letang accused Flyers forward Scott Hartnell of biting his hand during a scrap.

Battle of New York: Rangers vs. Islanders

The Islanders-Rangers rivalry, also unofficially known as the "Battle of New York", 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, the Raiders, in the then-new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Nassau County. The National Hockey League did not want the competition in the nation's largest metro area, 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 Islanders' 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). 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 1994 playoff series is the most recent meeting between the two teams in the playoffs.

The rivalry heated up in the regular season. Before the 1995–96 season the Islanders 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 Islanders with chants of "we want fishsticks", which is a reference to the way the logo resembled the Gorton's fisherman. The Islanders soon reverted back to their original logo with an updated color scheme in late 1996.

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: whistling 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 "1940!" 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 2007–08 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 1970s or early 1980s.

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.

During the 2009-10 season, the rivalry will be put aside as both head coaches, Rangers' John Tortorella and Islanders' Scott Gordon will serve as assistant coaches for the U.S. men's ice hockey team at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, under Toronto Maple Leafs Coach Ron Wilson, the head coach.[6] As a result, during games between both teams, American-born players on both teams are playing for and against coaches that are their prospective assistant coaches during the Olympics.

Historical heartbreak: Penguins vs. Islanders

While not considered a rivalry, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders have a significantly intertwined and rather diametrically opposed history, centered around their three highly notable playoff series: the 1975 NHL Quarterfinals, the 1982 Patrick Division Semifinals, and the 1993 Patrick Division Finals – all three of which were won by the Islanders.


1975 NHL Quarterfinals

The Islanders became only the second team in professional sports to rally from a 3–0 deficit (the first being the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs) and win a best-of-seven series, and remain the last team in the NHL to have done so. Over the next ten years, the Islanders would win four straight Stanley Cups and establish an unquestioned dynasty.

Pittsburgh filed for bankruptcy that summer and spent much of the next decade as a team mired at the bottom of the league and teetering on the edge of survival.

1982 Patrick Division Semifinals

After Game 2 of this first-round, best-of-five series, the two-time-defending Stanley Cup Champion Islanders had outscored the Penguins by a margin of 15–3. Penguins team owner Edward J. DeBartolo publicly announced that he would not be attending Game 3 in Pittsburgh, and even offered to refund fans who had purchased tickets. Although Pittsburgh then managed to win Games 3 and 4 to even the series and push them to the brink of elimination, John Tonelli scored at 6:10 of overtime in Game 5, and with their reign unbroken, the Islanders went on to win the franchise's third consecutive Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh would proceed to miss the playoffs for the next six years, finishing last overall in the league in both 1982–83 and 1983–84, enabling them to draft Mario Lemieux with the first overall pick in 1984 – the moment where the Penguins were forever redefined.

1993 Patrick Division Finals

With Mario Lemieux now at the center of the two-time-defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins, Pittsburgh won the franchise's first President's Trophy as the team finished the regular season with 119 points, first in the league. Despite missing an entire quarter of the season to undergo treatment after being suddenly diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, Lemieux won the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer. The Penguins ended the regular season by winning 17 straight games, breaking the league record of 15, formerly set by the 1981–82 Islanders. They then won the first-round Division Semifinals, defeating the New Jersey Devils in five games, and were overwhelming favorites to defeat the New York Islanders, who had finished more than thirty points behind them in the regular season and were playing without both captain Patrick Flatley and 58-goal scorer Pierre Turgeon. Demonstrating the perils of hubris, the Penguins allowed the Islanders to reach the series' seven-game limit.

Game 7 was marked by a horrific career-altering injury to star power forward Kevin Stevens' face from a collision with Rich Pilon, as well as the Penguins' overcoming a two-goal deficit in the third period to take the game into overtime – where little-used forward David Volek scored the winning goal for the Islanders at 5:16. The series is remembered as one of the more notable upsets of NHL history, unquestionably the most bitter loss in Penguins team history, and while described as "a miracle" by the New York press at the time, it also stands to date as a possible Pyrrhic victory for the Islanders by remaining the last playoff series they have won.

A first-round draft pick of the Islanders and member of this 1993 Islanders team, forward Tom Fitzgerald, was hired as the Penguins' director of player development in 2007, and, coming behind the bench as a midseason replacement assistant coach in 2009, won his first Stanley Cup while helping the team to finally capture Pittsburgh's third title.



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