With the Washington Capitals coming to town with just a 2-7-1 record and their front-line player Alex Ovechkin having 0 even-strength goals on the season, it’s made us wonder what the temperature of the room is around Pensburgh for rivalry teams of the moment.
The Penguins/Caps rivalry burned white hot as Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby dueled for the mythic “best player in the game” recognition a few years back but the two teams have disappointed mightily in the playoffs the past few years and the rivalry has seemed to decline. This could all change, of course, if/when the NHL has re-alignment and Pittsburgh and Washington finds themselves in the same division, if something like last year’s proposal is enacted for next season.
For now, it seems like the Pens/Philadelphia Flyers rivalry has gone back to the front-burner. The Flyers have always been the Pens primary rival, even if another might have momentarily taken over the spotlight. There’s Crosby vs. Claude Giroux in the “two star players that don’t like each other” role, the 2012 playoff series marred with fights, suspendable hits and venom aplenty from coaches and players to a man on both sides.
The Penguins and New York Rangers have a history too- with recent playoff matchups in 2008 and 2009, followed by NYR coach John Tortella whining and complaining about how much Crosby and Evgeni Malkin whine and complain. Any time there’s a division matchup against New York, it’s always an event.
Lately the Islanders have stepped up into a rival team as well. There’s the massive brawls and aftermath of 2011 and mutual fan dislike, but this is really the bug vs. windshield or hammer vs. nail rivalry. Until the Islanders can elevate their game out of the basement, it’s not truly a top rivalry. But with the young players they have, it could be something to watch before the team departs to Brooklyn in a few years.
The New Jersey Devils, while a division foe, isn’t really a team I consider a rival. Their games, while occasionally intense, seem too business-like to really pump the hate for either side. Perhaps that’s a function of their management or design, but when Penguin fans think “Devils” I think the first reaction isn’t hate or anger like what would bubble up if you said the words “Ovechkin” or “Giroux”.
What do you think, who’s the biggest Penguins rivals now and why? Can AO and the Caps put some polish on things with a strong performance tonight?