There are 82 games in a hockey season. There are die-hard fans who do all that they can to catch every one of them, but that doesn’t mean they will see every single game. But, there are some match-ups that everybody tends to flip on. These are rivalry games, and the Islanders are in a few. They are easily the most intense games in hockey, and as a result, get the highest ratings.
In this list, we will count down our Top-10 picks for the best current rivalries in the NHL. Historical rivalries will not count for this list. As a result, some “newer” rivalries will be found in this list, and some rivalries which have tamed a bit in the last couple decades (ex. Chicago and Detroit), won’t be found on the list despite being one of the most bitter rivalries in the history of the sport.
10. Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues
This Midwestern rivalry goes back for decades, and has just gotten better and better over the years.
Both teams have been playing competitive hockey for the last decade, and as a result, due to their location and history, the matchups are still intense. It also goes beyond hockey. Chicago and St. Louis have been competitors to be the most prominent city in the Midwest for years.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews also stirred the pot a bit with some comments about St. Louis and their recent championship. “At the end of the day, I think they made some big moves in the offseason last year. To me, them tanking at the start of the year was a huge underachievement. I’m not ready to give them as much credit as everyone else this year.”
Comments like these and fan interactions show that this rivalry isn’t dead, and is without a doubt, the best rivalry in the Central division at this time.
9. Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers
The Battle of Alberta has always been one of the best matchups to the north of the border. The problem is these two teams have never seemed to be competitive at the same time, keeping them a little lower on this list.
They have made a couple moves this summer, swapping goaltenders and a pair of bad contracts. Cam Talbot is now a Flame, and Mike Smith is now an Oiler. James Neal hopes to bounce back in Edmonton, perhaps playing on a line with Connor McDavid, and the return for Calgary was a washed-up Milan Lucic.
The games between these squads should be special this year due to the player movement that just took place, and both of these teams have some great star power which will be fun to see head-to-head.
8. San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights
These teams have clashed in the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and it has been nothing short of intense. As a result, these two squads are developing quite a rivalry.
Nobody can forget what might go down as one of the most historic games in NHL history: a 5-4 OT San Jose comeback victory in Game 7 over Vegas. The Sharks scored four power-play goals on a very questionable five-minute major call to take a 4-3 lead late in the third period, only for Vegas to respond with under a minute to play. Barclay Goodrow then went on to score a gorgeous goal in overtime to complete the comeback with a power move to the net.
Since this game, the tension has been very high between the fans, teams’ social medias, questioning NHL officiating, and even between the players. With games like this, these two top teams are going to have an intense rivalry for a very long time.
7. New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs
The past year has been absolute anarchy, since the Islanders lost superstar center John Tavares to the Maple Leafs, and former Leafs’ general manager Lou Lamoriello is now in charge on Long Island. The Islanders also managed to acquire Leo Komarov, Matt Martin, and the statistical top power-play coach, Jim Hiller. In conclusion, these two teams have swapped a whole lot.
The fans of these two teams usually absolutely despise each other. It has gotten quite ugly. It is almost getting out of hand with the way the fans of these two teams interact. It needs to be controlled before someone gets hurt.
This rivalry found its peak intensity on Feb. 28, 2019, when John Tavares made his return to Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders spanked the Leafs 6-1. The atmosphere was electric, but many fans, particularly Leafs fans, ridiculed the Islanders fans for being completely classless as they threw plastic snakes, jerseys, and participated in vulgar chants.
In essence, this rivalry is just being born and should become more and more intense. Everyone wants to see an Isles-Leafs series.
6. New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils
The Battle of the Hudson is back! With potentially two of the fastest rebuilds in the history of sports, New York and New Jersey are foes once again.
Both teams have had incredible offseasons and are trying to compete in the Metropolitan Division race this season. It has been quite awhile since the Rangers and the Devils have both played meaningful hockey simultaneously. As a result, seeing this rivalry reborn and seeing who will take over the New York City area should be special to watch.
With new acquisitions, both teams should be playing competitively for a long time. A main focus is also the competition between #1 and #2 overall draft picks, Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko. Here are the main pieces each squad acquired this offseason.
New York Rangers
- Artemi Panarin
- Kappo Kakko
- Jacob Trouba
- Adam Fox
New Jersey Devils
- P.K. Subban
- Nikita Gusev
- Jack Hughes
- Wayne Simmonds
5. Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers
The Battle of Pennsylvania has been electric for the last decade. Whenever these two teams clash, in the regular season and especially the playoffs, you know you are in for a tightly contested, physical battle.
The Penguins have had the upper hand as a general rule in this decade, but the Flyers have responded with some pivotal victories. Even if these two teams are far apart in skill, the rivalry is so intense that it always ends up being a fantastic game.
With many intense playoff series and bloody battles, Pennsylvania has seen some incredible hockey and the battle for it is something you can’t miss.
4. Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens
It is pretty hard to make this list without including one of the best rivalries in sports history. This one goes back over a century, and the only thing that keeps it from being #1 is the lack of meaningful games (and playoffs series) played this decade.
However, no matter where the teams are in the standings, when the B’s play the Habs, everyone is aware. With Montreal headed the right direction, a Boston-Montreal playoff series could be coming soon and the ratings would go through the roof. Boston-Montreal is widely accepted as the best rivalry of all time. Unfortunately, it has tapered off some due to the lack of relevant hockey.
3. New York Islanders and New York Rangers
The Battle of New York. Think about it in baseball: Yankees and Mets. Football: Jets and Giants. These are iconic rivalries. Hockey presents the best of them all and the Islanders take center stage.
New York is the second biggest city in North America, and its sports teams are all enemies. So, being the best team in New York isn’t just important on the ice, but in terms of pride as well.
This rivalry has never died. Even when the teams are in the basement the fans are electric and the games are intense. That, however, is far from the case now. With some starpower and incredible coaching, both teams will be competitive for a long time, hockey is growing tremendously in New York, and this rivalry is about to become better than ever.
The Islanders have a 15-5-0 record in their last 20 games against the Rangers.
2. Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs
This might be the most one-sided rivalry in the NHL, but it is certainly one of the most prominent and intense rivalries out there in all of sports, particularly in the last handful of years.
These teams seem to meet up in the first round of the playoffs every year, with Boston winning it in seven games. While it has become slightly predictable, Toronto is getting better and better and were favored against Boston with a 3-2 series lead on home ice. In essence, these series have had people on the edge of their seats, yet Toronto still seems unable to slip by Boston.
Will it ever happen? Who knows? That’s why it is such an intense and active rivalry. It is also probable that we will see these two teams meet in the playoffs multiple more times, as Tampa Bay is projected to finish first in the Atlantic Division with Boston and Toronto trailing at second and third.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals
As long as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are still in the National Hockey League, no rivalry can touch Pittsburgh and Washington. Two generational talents- Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have been playing for over 15 years, and have been considered the two best players in the NHL in this time frame due to their dominance.
The amount of second round encounters the two teams have had is incredible. Every game of every series has been fun and nothing short of intense. The Penguins had usually escaped with a second round victory, until Washington made things interesting in 2018 by defeating the Penguins in Round Two in six games, and eventually going on to win a Stanley Cup, the franchise’s and Alex Ovechkin’s first.
Seeing this, it is really now anyone’s game when these two teams take center ice. They have been two dominant forces with incredible star power for the last decade and a half, and the rivalry certainly isn’t slowing down, making it the NHL’s best at the moment.