It solely took three a long time, however the hockey gods lastly delivered.

For the primary since 1991, hockey followers have been handled to a Battle of Alberta. And it goes with out saying that it’s been wonderful, with a ton of objectives, numerous unhealthy blood, and Connor McDavid doing issues that might have made 1987-era Wayne Gretzky go “come on dude, go easy on them.” It’s been improbable, identical to all of us knew it will be.

It’s additionally the third time within the final two years that the playoffs have served up a long-awaited rivalry matchup. Last season we lastly obtained the first-ever Battle of Florida, and it was a lot enjoyable that we instantly greenlit a sequel for this 12 months, which was in all probability a mistake. We additionally obtained the primary assembly between the Habs and Leafs because the Nineteen Seventies, and I haven’t completed watching that one but so no spoilers, please.

It all obtained me serious about different rivalry matchups that we haven’t seen shortly, or perhaps even ever, which appeared like a worthy matter for a rating. I’ll outline “a while” as inside the final 10 years, and I’ll rank every matchup based mostly on an goal set of standards often called “I’m making this up as I go along.”

I’ll attempt to hit as many groups as I can, however there will likely be a couple of repeats in right here, and sadly, a couple of groups are going to be disregarded fully, particularly people who have had numerous playoff motion over the past decade and coated off most of their potential matchups. If you’re a fan of a type of groups, please be assured that my coronary heart breaks for you. It should be so troublesome to cheer for a workforce that wins within the playoffs. Couldn’t be me.

If I’d performed this listing a 12 months in the past, the Battle of Alberta would have been a straightforward No. 1. Since the hockey gods are clearly feeling beneficiant lately, perhaps we will encourage them with a couple of extra concepts for subsequent 12 months. Here we go …


10. Blackhawks vs. Canucks

Total matchups: Five.

Last playoff chapter: 2011

The rivalry in a single sentence: Two previous guys on the bar reminiscing about their glory days, which sounds unhappy till you understand that their glory days had been fairly rattling wonderful.

I went backwards and forwards on whether or not to incorporate this one. It sort of got here out of nowhere a decade in the past, as two groups with little historical past ended up crossing paths within the playoffs three years in a row and briefly turned the best rivalry in the league. Those groups had been stacked with expertise, fairly evenly matched, and hated one another. No actually, these had been some nasty collection, with the animosity spilling over to the common season. When hockey followers are debating the merits of hair-pulling, you recognize you’ve obtained a rivalry.

The 2011 assembly was a becoming last chapter, with the most effective Canucks workforce ever seeking to avenge losses in every of the earlier two years. Vancouver went up 3-0 within the collection, let the Hawks come all the best way again to drive a Game 7, after which lastly slayed the dragon in time beyond regulation. Having the winner scored by one of many rivalry’s central villains was a pleasant contact.

Would a reboot all these years later work? I’m undecided it will, with nearly all the important thing characters lengthy gone and each groups doing quasi-rebuilds. Still, I’m going to incorporate it, if solely as a result of it wouldn’t take a lot for lots of these unhealthy emotions between the fan bases to return flooding again.

9. Coyotes vs. Jets

Total matchups: None.

Last playoff chapter: Never.

The rivalry in a single sentence: Spiderman pointing meme, besides it’s two guys in Jets jerseys.

OK, I admit that it’s bizarre to have a “rivalry” between two groups which have by no means met within the playoffs, aren’t wherever close to one another geographically, and have barely even had any memorable moments on the ice.

Still … you’d wish to see this, proper? The new Jets dealing with the previous Jets would really feel sort of poignant, no less than for Winnipeg followers. You can think about the house video games turning right into a battle of the white outs, particularly if we wait till the Coyotes are again in an actual enviornment. The Winnipeg followers would win that facet of it, clearly, however Arizona followers might hearth again by hanging Teemu Selanne and Dale Hawerchuk banners of their enviornment, simply to be jerks. This one has potential, is all that I’m saying.

8. Leafs vs. Sabres

Total matchups: One

Last playoff chapter: 1999

The rivalry in a single sentence: One playoff matchup in over 50 years, that means the remainder of you don’t understand how insane this is able to get.

Yes, I double-checked — these groups have by some means solely met as soon as in historical past, again within the 1999 convention last. The Sabres received that one, organising a gathering with the Stars within the last that … properly, you know.

So why have this matchup on the listing, when historical past says it’s barely even a rivalry? Because it will be wonderful, that’s why. Regular-season conferences between these two groups are all the time enjoyable, even when one or each groups are unhealthy. Hell, they served up what could be the only memorable preseason game in NHL historical past. When Phil Kessel is out right here bloodying dudes, it’s a rivalry.

Sabres followers love beating the Leafs, particularly after they can ship invading Toronto followers off for a tragic QEW trip dwelling. Give a younger, up-and-coming Sabres workforce a playoff matchup in opposition to a Leafs workforce that may’t win within the playoffs, and also you’d have the proper recipe for a bandwagon underdog. Trust me, this one goes to occur ultimately and when it does, you received’t have the ability to take your eyes off of it.

7. Oilers vs. Canucks

Total matchups: Two.

Wait, two? (Double-checks.) Yeah, by some means solely two.

Last playoff chapter: 1992

The rivalry in a single sentence: The Canucks have by no means crushed the Oilers in a playoff collection and it will be two Canadian fan bases, so that you do the maths.

I’m nonetheless shook by the conclusion that they’ve solely ever performed twice, as a result of I might swear I bear in mind them crossing paths greater than that again within the Smythe days. Maybe I’m simply confused as a result of they had been the Saturday night time late sport eight instances a 12 months again then. Oh properly, the 1992 second-round collection was fairly good, and these two fan bases would take roughly 14 seconds earlier than they determined they hated one another greater than life itself and all the time had.

Hey, talking of old-school Smythe Division enjoyable …

6. Flames vs. Kings

Total matchups: Four

Last playoff chapter: 1993

The rivalry in a single sentence: The Oilers have been on one heck of a Smythe Division reunion tour this 12 months. Before they lastly drew the Flames once more, they needed to maintain a Kings workforce they hadn’t confronted since 1992. But the Kings had one other nice rivalry again then, and it produced 4 playoff conferences in six years beginning in 1988. The 1989 collection got here because the Flames pushed their option to the franchise’s solely Stanley Cup, and the Kings obtained a little bit of payback in 1993 on the best way to their first Final. Even their regular-season conferences had been often heated, and infrequently concerned a coach sucker-punching a player.

But for my cash, the most effective matchup was all the time the 1990 assembly. That one noticed the Flames are available in as defending champs and heavy favorites, and featured loads of offense (together with a 12-4 Kings win and an Al MacInnis penalty shot). There had been additionally a pair of overtimes, together with one within the deciding sport that ended on one of many wildest series-winning objectives ever.

That’s Mike Krushelnyski getting tackled by two Flames, sweeping on the puck whereas mendacity on his again, by some means getting sufficient arc below it to ship it towards the Calgary internet, after which watching it flutter simply inches over Mike Vernon’s outstretched glove. Then the Kings all skate round celebrating by themselves like big weirdos, however let’s ignore that half. The level is that this one could be enjoyable.

Hey, right here’s an odd truth: This 12 months was the primary time the Kings and Flames each made the playoffs since 1993, a stretch that features a streak of 16 seasons the place precisely one of many two groups made it yearly from 2003 to 2020. I ran the numbers on the chances of that occuring, and the reply got here again “slim.”

5. Devils vs. Rangers

Total matchups: Six

Last playoff chapter: 2012

The rivalry in a single sentence: If you don’t bear in mind the 1994 assembly, simply activate the NHL Network and wait a couple of minutes, and I assure you’ll hear all about it.

This one simply slips in below our 10-year cutoff, with the final collection coming within the 2012 convention last. That was a reasonably good one, with the Devils getting back from a 2-1 deficit to win the collection in six and earn the proper to get humbled by the Kings within the Final. The two groups additionally met in 1992, 1997 and 2008, all Ranger wins, in addition to in a 2006 Devils sweep. Also, there was this whole thing.

None of these collection are why this rivalry makes the listing. Neither is geography, though that half doesn’t harm. Instead, all of it goes again to 1994, and the traditional convention last that featured Mark Messier’s guarantee and Stephane Matteau’s time beyond regulation winner. The Rangers went on to win the Cup, whereas the Devils needed to wait a 12 months for redemption. I ranked it as the most painful loss in Devils history, and I stand by it.

This could be a whole lot of enjoyable, particularly with 4 latest lottery picks within the combine. If we obtained this matchup anytime quickly then it feels protected to say the Devils could be underdogs, however the rivalry all the time labored finest that means.

4. Maple Leafs vs. Senators

Total matchups: 4

Last playoff chapter: 2004

The rivalry in a single sentence: You can inform this bitter playoff rivalry is from a very long time in the past as a result of the Maple Leafs dominated.

The Battle of Ontario began off a geographic rivalry, with the 2 groups assembly for the primary time in 2000. There wasn’t all that a lot unhealthy blood again then, and even loads of followers within the province who supported each groups. (This was solely the second season they’d even been in the identical convention.) The first collection was advantageous, lasting six video games and producing one classic overtime amongst a handful of memorable moments. But the actual rivalry began in 2001, when the Leafs swept the favored Senators and a bizarre controversy broke out between Ottawa’s mayor and the CBC’s broadcast crew. (Yes, really.) From there, it was sport on because the rivalry obtained increasingly ugly and occasionally dumb, each on and off the ice. The two groups met once more in 2002 and 2004, with each collection ending in Game 7 wins for the Leafs.

The cap period hasn’t been form to the Battle of Ontario, principally as a result of the Leafs sat out the primary decade or so of postseasons. Ottawa moved on to a playoff rivalry with Montreal that served up a couple of strong chapters. But it nonetheless feels prefer it wouldn’t take a lot to reignite the unhealthy blood between the 2 Ontario fan bases, and the Senators definitely have some unfinished enterprise. Also, it will be enjoyable to look at Matthew Tkachuk chug beers whereas surrounded by Maple Leafs followers in all seven video games.


Honorable mentions

Before we get to a prime three that will or might not be anti-climactic relying on how intently you’ve been paying consideration, let’s get a couple of fast hit mentions out of the best way:

Jets vs. Canucks: Another Vancouver rivalry with solely two playoff conferences, in 1992 and 1993. Wait, did the Canucks simply solely play the Flames yearly and none of us biased Eastern varieties ever observed?

Sabres vs. Flyers: They’ve barely ever even been in the identical division, however they’ve met 9 instances in historical past together with in a Final, and this was low-key one in every of the most brutal feuds of the late 90s.

Stars vs. Oilers: We simply missed this one this 12 months, and we haven’t seen it since 2003, however they as soon as met one another within the playoffs six instances in seven years. The Oilers received the primary one in a memorable upset, then the Stars pasted them each different time till the Oilers simply stopped making the playoffs to keep away from them.

Capitals vs. Devils: A traditional Patrick pairing that we’ve solely seen twice, and never since 1990.

Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings or Blackhawks: The Wings matchup has a good probability of taking place sometime quickly, whereas the Hawks received’t get to face an Original Six rival until it’s within the Final or the NHL adopts crossover seeding. Until then, we will bear in mind how a lot enjoyable these two Norris Division rivalries had been. If you wish to return even additional, the Hawks have met the Canadiens within the playoffs 17 instances, however not because the mid-70s.

Canadiens vs. Hurricanes: They’ve met twice within the playoffs and each had some nastiness, however this is able to actually be about igniting their current-day rivalry. Look, I attempted my finest to manifest this one last year.

Flyers vs. Bruins: They’ve met six instances however solely twice because the Nineteen Seventies, after they had been the 2 hardest groups within the leagues and pleased with it.

Your workforce vs. that different workforce, despite the fact that they completely have met inside the final 10 years: Great name, can’t imagine I forgot that one.


3. Red Wings vs. Avalanche

Total matchups: Six

Last playoff chapter: 2008

The rivalry in a single sentence: The very best rivalry of the fashionable period, and for those who weren’t round for it then hoo boy did you miss out.

I’ve combined emotions about this one. At its peak, this rivalry was the very best, combing monumental talent with visceral hatred in a means we hadn’t seen because the Nineteen Eighties Battle of Alberta. It dominated. And due to how the sport has advanced, we’ll by no means see something prefer it once more.

But that’s the issue, proper? The Wings/Avs rivalry was a product of its period, and a modern-day remake wouldn’t have an opportunity of residing as much as expectations. There’s an actual “let the past die” vibe with this one, and it’s tempting to knock it down the listing, and even go away it off altogether. Maybe I ought to have.

Except … I imply, it’s not like all the important thing gamers in that previous rivalry have disappeared. Having Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman operating their groups now lends some legitimacy to the rivalry’s chain of custody. Sure, it will be sort of like a type of TV remakes the place the previous stars come again, solely this time they’re the mother and father of the brand new characters. But generally these are good. Guys like Brendan Shanahan and Patrick Roy are nonetheless kicking across the hockey world, and we might discover a option to get them concerned. Oh, and you recognize that Moritz Seider child who’s on the point of change into the following Nicklas Lidstrom? Guess who his agent is

Yeah, you’re proper, that is wishful considering on my half. (Let’s not even point out that it must occur within the Final, which feels exceedingly unlikely.) Let an previous man have his nostalgic goals, OK?

2. Sabres vs. Bruins

Total matchups: Eight

Last playoff chapter: 2010

The rivalry in a single sentence: This previous Adams rivalry made for the proper playoff matchup for an April night time, or perhaps a May day.

We’ve seen a whole lot of the Sabres on this listing, as a result of they’ve kindly saved their post-2012 playoff calendar utterly clear for us. We might additionally point out them with the Habs or Senators, and so they’ve nonetheless obtained some animosity over the Hurricanes stealing the convention from them in 2006. But I believe that is the most effective of them, conjuring up some enjoyable recollections for each groups.

The two most up-to-date conferences got here in 1999, when the Sabres received on their option to the Final, and in 2010, when the Bruins received in a first-round collection that preceded unlucky occasions. But the actual meat on this bone is from the 80s and 90s, when the 2 groups met six instances in 12 seasons. The Bruins took every of the primary 5 conferences, together with a Game 7 on that legendary night back in 1992, resulting in an growing sense of desperation for a Sabres workforce that wanted to point out it belonged. They lastly obtained their win in 1993, on what stays arguably the most memorable sweep-clinching goal since Bobby Orr.

And via all of it, it’s protected to say that these two groups didn’t like one another.

I simply suppose this one could be all types of enjoyable. And the Bruins actually have a Foligno to ensure the fans stay well-behaved.

1. Rangers vs. Islanders

Total matchups: Eight

Last playoff chapter: 1994

The rivalry in a single sentence: Potvin Sucks.

I’ve to confess, between this and Joe Thornton in the recent OGWAC rankings, I’m not precisely killing it in the case of constructing suspense for prime spot on my lists. Yes, in fact this spot has to go to the Rangers and Islanders, an all-time rivalry that’s by some means been on maintain for practically 30 years regardless of the 2 groups all the time being in the identical division.

Their first memorable assembly got here again in 1979, when a Rangers upset turned out to be the final playoff loss the Islanders would undergo for 5 years. The Islanders obtained their revenge throughout the dynasty, profitable 4 straight collection from 1981 to 1984, whereas the Rangers received two conferences within the Nineteen Nineties. The final was a sweep within the first spherical in 1994 on the best way to the Rangers’ first and solely championship since 1940, which turned out to be tragic for Islanders followers as a result of it value them one of the crucial withering chants in professional sports activities. Don’t fear, although, they’ve obtained others, and so they don’t even wait for a Rangers game to interrupt them out.

Honestly, I believe the rivalry between the 2 fan bases would outshine something that occurred on the ice (though that side of it can certainly get ugly too). I imply, these followers all hate one another a lot that they’ll throw punches at Santa Claus at Christmas time, think about what they’d do within the postseason.

Please, hockey gods. You’ve been form to us these previous couple of years, and we don’t wish to be grasping. But let’s convey again the Rangers/Islanders rivalry, playoff version. It must occur.

(Photo of Buffalo’s Owen Power and Toronto’s Auston Matthews: Andrew Lahodynskyj / NHLI by way of Getty Images)



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