There are many storied rivalries in the NHL, but in the year 2018 is Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry the NHL’s best?
Caps-Penguins may lack the history of many of the rivalries among original six teams and probably everyone from Canada would scoff at the notion that two American teams can dominate Canada’s game. But let’s not forget, the last three Stanley Cups were won by the Caps and Penguins. That alone makes it one of the more compelling matchups in hockey.
The NHL is full of young stars making their mark on the league such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine, but all of those players lack a natural rival.
Sure, there’s somewhat of a rivalry between Mathews and Laine, the No. 1 and 2 pick from the 2016 draft respectively. The same goes for McDavid and Eichel from the 2015 draft. The problem for those players is that they each went to different conferences, limiting both their regular season and postseason matchups.
Ovechkin and Crosby are not a No. 1 vs. a No. 2, they were both top draft picks who, because of the 2004-05 lockout, entered the league in the same year, in the same conference and on rival teams.
There’s just nothing else in the NHL that comes close to the rivalry these two have had since they entered the league.
Since then, they have each led their teams to be top contenders. No team in the NHL has a better record over the past decade than the Capitals while the Penguins have established themselves as the class of the NHL by winning back to back Cups in 2016 and 2017.
What really held this rivalry back for many years was how one-sided it was at least in terms of the postseason. While both teams trade punches in the regular season, the Penguins always seemed to come out on top in the playoffs. That changed in 2018 as the Caps finally got over their playoff demons and downed Pittsburgh in six games.
Now, there’s no question. Nothing else compares.
What’s a more compelling matchup?
Montreal vs. Toronto/Boston? Wake me up when Montreal becomes relevant again.
San Jose vs. Anaheim/Los Angeles? Erik Karlsson makes the Sharks compelling, but the window for both the Kings and Ducks has long since closed.
Chicago vs. Detroit? These two teams aren’t even in the same conference anymore.
Chicago vs. St. Louis? The Blackhawks won’t even be a playoff team if Corey Crawford can’t stay healthy.
Rangers vs. Islanders? These are two of the worst teams in the league this year.
There’s no contest. The only thing good about the NHL’s ridiculous playoff format is that we have gotten to see these two teams meet in the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. The winner of that series has gone on to win the Cup.
The Caps-Penguins is the most compelling, best rivalry in the NHL and it’s not close.
Don’t believe me? On Thursday when the Caps return to the ice where they ended Pittsburgh’s quest for the three peat, there will be nine other games on as well. Which one will you be watching?
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