The Flyers–Penguins rivalry, also known as the Battle of Pennsylvania, is a National Hockey League (NHL) rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, considered to be the best rivalry in the NHL. Both teams compete in the NHL's Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division. The rivalry began in 1967, when the teams were introduced into the NHL's "Next Six" expansion wave. The rivalry exists due to divisional alignment and geographic location, as both teams play in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Flyers and Penguins have met in the Stanley Cup playoffs in three of the past eight seasons as of 2015, strengthening the rivalry.
|First meeting||October 19, 1967|
|Latest meeting||March 26, 2017|
|Regular season series||PHI 153–98–30|
|Postseason results||PHI 19–16|
|Current win streak||1 win - Philadelphia|
Early days Edit
The first meeting between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh occurred on October 19, 1967, in the first-ever game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Flyers goaltender Doug Favell stopped all 17 Pittsburgh shots and Bill Sutherland scored the lone goal 2:59 into the third period for a 1–0 Flyers win.
The rivalry was not as strong in earlier years, as Pittsburgh struggled in the NHL until the arrival of Mario Lemieux in 1984–85. Philadelphia achieved just the opposite, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975. When the NHL realigned divisions prior to the 1974–75 season, the two Pennsylvania teams were moved to separate divisions. Pittsburgh spent the next 7 seasons in the Norris Division and became Philadelphia's division rivals once again upon joining the Patrick Division in 1981–82.
Arrival of Mario Lemieux Edit
After years of underperformance, the arrival of Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh gave the Penguins respectability in the NHL. In 1988–89, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh met for the first time in the playoffs in the Patrick Division Finals. In a surprising upset, Philadelphia beat the heavily favored Pittsburgh in seven games.
The series proved to be a turning point for both franchises. Philadelphia missed the playoffs for the next 5 seasons, while Pittsburgh became an annual contender with such stars as Lemieux, Jaromír Jágr, and Tom Barrasso. The Penguins peaked with two Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992, having missed the 1990 playoffs.
Eric Lindros and the 1990s Edit
The rivalry continued during the 1990s with the arrival of Eric Lindros in Philadelphia, which gave the Flyers a counterbalance against Lemieux. Further divisional realignment, however, split the teams up again in 1993–94, and Pittsburgh spent the next 5 seasons in the Northeast Division. Lindros and Jagr were tied for the League scoring lead in 1994–95, but the Art Ross Trophy was ultimately awarded to Jagr for having scoring more goals than Lindros. Lindros, however, won the Hart Memorial Trophy that season as League MVP, with Lemieux winning it the following season in 1995–96, with Lindros as first runner-up. During that same season, Philadelphia won the Eastern Conference's crown by 1 point in the standings, despite Pittsburgh having 49 wins to Philadelphia's 45. The two teams met again in the playoffs, in the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Philadelphia won in five games, and Lemieux subsequently 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.
One of the most memorable moments of the rivalry occurred during the 1999–2000 season, when the two teams met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. A season after Pittsburgh joined the Atlantic Division, Philadelphia had won the Division and the 1st seed in the East, while Pittsburgh snuck into the playoffs as the 7th seed. Despite this, Pittsburgh jumped out to a 2–0 series lead, winning both games in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won Game 3 in overtime, but NHL history was made in Game 4. Tied at 1–1, the game stretched to 5 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 of overtime (152:01 overall) gave Philadelphia a 2–1 win and a 2–2 split in the series. The outcome energized Philadelphia and demoralized Pittsburgh, as Philadelphia went on to win the next 2 games and the series.
Rivalry in the 21st century Edit
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.
In 2006–07, Pittsburgh defeated Philadelphia in all 8 matchups between the two teams, and Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury became the first goaltender to defeat a team 8 times in a season since 1967–68. Philadelphia have swept the season series 3 times, winning all 4 games during the 1980–81 season, all 7 games during the 1983–84 season and all 4 games during the 2014–15 season. During the 2007–08 season, Philadelphia won 5 games and Pittsburgh won 3 in the season series. The series was highlighted by an 8–2 win by Philadelphia and a 7–1 win by Pittsburgh. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh faced off in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, won by Pittsburgh in 5 games for Pittsburgh's first-ever playoff series win against Philadelphia. A year later, in the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia again, winning the series 4–2 on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
In the 2010–11 season opener, Philadelphia traveled to Pittsburgh to open the Penguins new arena, the Consol Energy Center, on October 7. Rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made his NHL debut, leading Philadelphia to a 3–2 victory. Flyers forward Danny Briere scored the first NHL goal in the new building, and Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy scored the first Penguins goal.
On July 1, 2011, the Flyers signed former Penguins Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot to a 1-year, $3.3 million deal and a five-year, $9 million deal, respectively. Whilst playing for Pittsburgh 2 years earlier, Talbot scored both goals in the Penguins' Cup-clinching Game 7 win against the Detroit Red Wings in 2009.
On April 1, 2012, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were involved in a late-game skirmish at Consol Energy Center. The game, which Philadelphia won 6–4, was highlighted by Philadelphia's Head Coach Peter Laviolette and Pittsburgh's Assistant Coach Tony Granato standing atop the boards and engaged in a verbal altercation. Both were eventually fined by the NHL. On April 7, Pittsburgh defeated Philadelphia for the first time in 6 games at Consol Energy Center, winning 4–2. As of the 2015–16 season, Philadelphia hold a 13–3-1 record against Pittsburgh at Consol Energy Center.
The teams met again in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, their 3rd meeting in 5 seasons. Philadelphia won the series in 6 games, surprising the hockey world, as Pittsburgh were heavily favored to win the Stanley Cup that year. The teams combined for an NHL-record 45 goals in the first 4 games, as well as combining for 309 penalty minutes (158 of which were in Philadelphia's 8-4 Game 3 victory, which put them ahead 3-0 in the series) throughout the fight-filled, 6-game series.
Cultural impact Edit
The rivalry is often regarded as one of the most intense in the League. The rivalry has been referred to as "The Keystone State Rivalry", a reference to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's nickname. Both teams have very loyal fan bases that essentially divide the Commonwealth's loyalty in half; the eastern half of the state consists of mostly Flyer fans, while the western half consists of mostly Penguin fans. Both teams regularly sellout their arenas, PPG Paints Arena and Wells Fargo Center, respectively. At most games, derogatory chants will sound towards the opposition. Flyers fans often chant "Crosby sucks" towards Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, as well as booing whenever he touches the puck. On the other side, Penguins fans tend to simply chant, "Flyers suck", rather than singling out specific players. Several fights have broken out between fans, the most recent coming after the 2012 playoffs. The rivalry is a hot ticket in both cities; it is often the most anticipated matchup of the season.
Pittsburgh sports reporter Mark Madden is known for his unabashed hate of the Flyers and often pokes fun at the fact that while they were the only Expansion Six team to win a Stanley Cup within the teams' first decade, the Flyers have had lack of success in winning the Cup again (despite regular season and postseason success) while the Penguins have doubled the Flyers in Cup wins.
A Twitter account called "Since Flyers Last Cup" is dedicated to counting the number of days it has been since the Flyers last won the Cup.
See also Edit
- National Hockey League rivalries
- Phillies–Pirates rivalry