Goaltender Steve Mason of the Blue Jackets eyes up a shot from Nicklas Lidstrom of the Red Wings. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Montreal-Toronto. Detroit-Chicago. Montreal-Boston. The NHL – which some might say sells hate – was built and has thrived on rivalries.
Over the years we’ve seen hostile environments when Philadelphia played Boston, the Rangers met the Islanders and when Alberta was being battled for.
But recently we’ve hit a little bit of a rut. Sure, you’ll always have the geographical rivalries, but some were born out of incidents from years past, with players who are no longer around (See Colorado-Detroit). The changing of the guard in the NHL (i.e. Florida on the up, Ottawa on the down) has altered who is relevant in the league and has led to the extinction – or at least hibernation – of a few rivalries.
But fear not. There is potential for some brand new blood baths to be drawn for your viewing pleasure. In fact, one of them is coming along nicely and the latest edition (from Friday the 13th no less) was one of, if not the best game of the season so far.
Here are two tilts I always get up for because the potential for them to grow into something more than just another game is teetering on the edge of all-out war.
Detroit vs. Columbus
These are the culprits from the Friday game I alluded to earlier (and if you haven’t seen Steve Mason’s stacked-pads save on Henrik Zetterberg, two words come to mind: Dear Lord). The Red Wings, so dominant for so long in the barren Central Division, finally have a foe similar to that itch you can’t reach in the middle of your back. The Blue Jackets aren’t deep, they aren’t overly talented and they definitely don’t have much experience past the first 82 games of a season, but they have a hard-working team, a Ken Hitchcock system and this special kid named Mason.
Given their draft record and managerial acumen, you know the Wings aren’t going anywhere for a while. Columbus is just gaining steam and the two teams already have quite the competition bubbling. Not only that, but you can tell Jackets fans are right into this; it was an electric standing-room-only crowd Friday.
If these teams line up for a playoff showdown, look out. It’ll be a barrage of flying octopi and 19th century cannonballs.
This is one rivalry I’m looking forward to watching ignite. Michigan-Ohio St.? Please, that’s child’s play.
Philadelphia vs. Washington
After last year’s playoff matchup you could say this is already a rivalry and it’d be hard to argue against. But trust me, this one has yet to boil over.
Many are consumed with Ovechkin-Malkin and Crosby-Semin, but I think this showdown is closer to a death match because the Capitals won’t only stand up to Philadelphia’s gritty, head-first style, they’ll put their own heads down in an attempt to ram the Flyers off the mountain cliff.
Mike Richards and Alex Ovechkin are the long-term faces of these franchises and have already met once in the playoffs. With more than a decade left on both their contracts, you can bet any bad blood will stain and linger for years to come. But they aren’t the only faces. Both teams are brimming with young talent, so Jeff Carter, Braydon Coburn and Scott Hartnell will be able to get very familiar with Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Alexander Semin. And we all know familiarity breeds contempt.
Being geographically close has helped consummate the hate and I love the fact they aren’t in the same division because there’s every chance in the world they could go head-to-head in the first round of the playoffs in any given year.
And since neither side has an elite netminder at this point in time, the goals should come early and often.
Do you have a favorite rivalry? Is there something new brewing with your favorite team and another non-traditional foe?
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