The next two weeks is all about rivalries around your favorite SBN sites, and to kick it off, we’re going to start with.....Number three. As in, who is or should be or will be the Penguins’ third rival?
Because it’s clear the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals are one and two. Some may even debate the order, given that the Pens tend to run into the Caps more in the playoffs and the Flyers have been largely irrelevant for the last 5, 10, 15, 20, etc years. But that’s neither here nor there, it’s beyond obvious that Pittsburgh-Phily and Pittsburgh-Washington are among the best rivalries in hockey, and two of the hottest ones in recent years.
Which leads to the interest....Beyond that level who is next?
older err, let’s say “more veteran” Pens fan would be happy to tell you, the Islanders have historically been one of the Pens’ most annoying and painful opponents over the years. There was the time in 1975 that Pittsburgh became the first team to blow a 3-0 series lead to NYI, a result that helped set in motion a changing of courses for both franchises for the better part of a decade.
Then there’s 1993 when an underdog Isles team found a way to beat the mighty back-to-back defending champion Penguins in overtime of Game 7 (on a yikes goal, no less) to end Pittsburgh’s reign.
And who can forget the big brawls at the beginning of the 2010’s with the Islanders gooning it up and calling up detestable characters from the minor leagues to fight the Pens at every turn?
Islanders/Penguins doesn’t quite have the juice or appeal of a huge rival, but it’s long been a very nasty feud between long-time division rivals with lots of bad blood and disdain. The Pens enjoy a 134–118–22–13 record all-time vs NYI, but are only 12-17 in the playoffs.
An ultimate big brother/little brother type of rivalry, this would no doubt be one that the league would love to develop when Columbus got to move over to the Eastern conference.
The cities are only a short three hour car ride away, it’s not uncommon for Pens’ fans to flood the stands at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. And, to a lesser degree, CBJ fans will trek east a little bit as well, I remember several jovial ones celebrating the Jackets’ first ever playoff game victory in 2014.
For better or worse, the divisional playoff format does push these two teams together. Twice they have met in the playoffs (2014, 2017) with the Pens enjoying a 8-3 record and both series wins. Overall, the Pens have dominated the Blue Jackets with a 31–11–0–4 all-time record against the Ohio team.
And that’s where there is room for improvement in this rivalry. Until CBJ can be any kind of a real threat or equal to the Pens, this is more of a novelty. Columbus fans don’t like or enjoy Pens’ fans all that much, but the reverse is hardly true — most Pens’ fans barely even notice the Blue Jackets’ existence.
Another playoff-tested opponent, Pittsburgh/New York was a yearly occurrence for far too long from 2014-16, They met in the playoffs in 2008 and before that several times in the 1990s and earlier (1989, 1992, 1996).
The ‘92 series was one of the more heated when the cowardly Adam Graves blatantly slashed and brok the hand of Mario Lemieux. Other than minor league level deals, these two division rivals haven’t made a trade with each other since 2003 when Alexei Kovalev was sent back to NY for mostly cash considerations to the struggling Pens. So take that out of consideration, and the two teams haven’t made a “hockey trade” of any note since 1999 when Pittsburgh sent Kevin Hatcher to NYR for defenseman Peter Popovic. These are two organizations that don’t work together and are competitive even off the ice.
The Rangers are the epitome of the big market team in the big town in famous arena. Who doesn’t like going to that stage and proving who the better team is?
—For a brief period, the Penguins/Red Wings rivalry was aces as the best teams in the league squared off twice in a row in the Stanley Cup Final. Just had a lot of great energy with a big market, Original Six team as a foil. No doubt it’s faded a ton in the past few years.
—Would anyone speak to a Pens/Boston rivalry? Two of the best teams in the conference for an extended time. There’s only one playoff matchup in recent years (2013, which we don’t talk about), which kind of takes some wind out of the sails.
—Pens/Senators is one of those oddly weird rivalries for no real reason, except a bunch of playoff meetings. Ottawa, surprisingly enough, has been one of the most common foes in the Sidney Crosby era (2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2017), with early memories of the Pens’ first taste of playoff action, Gary Roberts’ mastery of the Sens and then later Chris Kunitz’s double OT Game 7 Eastern Conference Final goal. Certainly lots of important and memorable moments, but I’m not sure I’d consider this much of a “rivalry” that contains any real bad blood, hurt feelings or intense dislike for the opposing fans so much as Pens/Sens has happened to be a very regular opponent.
Who do you think the Pens’ #3 rival is?
This poll is closed
New York Islanders
Columbus Blue Jackets
New York Rangers