Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Caps Top 10 Rivals

Inspired by the Chief over at A2Y (though not inspired enough to put in the effort that he did), I thought it would be a good August discussion topic to throw together a list of the Caps Top 10 Rivals, and let you guys tell me where I went wrong. Away we go:
  1. Pittsburgh Penguins. Seven playoff series, one win. Two blown 3-1 series leads, one blown 2-0 lead.... Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Petr Nedved, Martin Straka, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin.... The way their fans invade our building.... I just threw up in my mouth.

  2. Philadelphia Flyers. Four playoff series, tied at two apiece.... Often brutally physical rivalry.... Dale Hunter's goal.... Ron Hextall's goal.... The god forsaken Spectrum.... Reignited this past season with Philly's acquisition of the almost universally loathed Danny Briere and, of course, the playoff series.... At least I got to bury these guys this year.

  3. New York Rangers. Four playoff series, tied at two wins apiece.... John Druce.... Jaromir Jagr.... All those transplanted New Yorkers living in D.C.... It's been a while since these teams were division rivals (1997-98) and even longer since they faced each other in the playoffs (1993-94), but the hatred's still there.

  4. Carolina Hurricanes. Hey, the first of the rivalries Gary created makes an appearance!... The teams have combined to win six of the nine Southeast Division titles, with each team winning three (and the Caps winning the most recent title in their last game of the season).... No playoff match-ups yet, so it pains me to rank the rivalry this high, but given the proximity of the two teams to one another and the frequency with which they've battled each other on-ice and in the standings over the last decade or so, this is where I put it.

  5. New York Islanders. Six playoff series, one win. One blown 2-0 series lead (in a best-of-five) and one blown 3-1 lead that culminated in the worst moment in Caps' history.... Hunter's hit on Pierre Turgeon.... Denis Potvin's hit on Bengt Gustafsson.

  6. Tampa Bay Lightning. One questionably officiated playoff series, one loss. One 2-0 series lead blown.... Martin St. Louis. Pavel Kubina. Vinny Lecavalier.... The rivalry loses something with John Tortorella gone, but with Olie Kolzig now in Tampa, there's plenty of reason to get fired up for a Bolts game.

  7. Buffalo Sabres. One playoff series, one triumphant win sending the Caps to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance.... Dominik Hasek throwing his blocker at Peter Bondra.... Alex Ovechkin's hit on Briere and Briere's courageous retaliation.... Another visiting team that represents (or at least did when they were good) at the Verizon Center.

  8. New Jersey Devils. Two playoff series, one win apiece (including a seven-game loss in the 1987-88 Patrick Division Finals).... Pat Verbeek's filthiness on Rod Langway during that playoff series.... Patrik Sundstrom's NHL-record eight-point game against the Caps in that same series.... Martin Brodeur's whining about Ovechkin's mirrored visor.... What could have been had the Caps kept Scott Stevens (and yes, I know he went to St. Loo in between, but tell me it didn't hurt to see him raise the Cup for Jersey three times).

  9. Atlanta Thrashers. Another one of the "forced" rivalries, this one got ratcheted up a notch when Andy Sutton tried to decapitate Mike Green two seasons ago.... Now the matchup features a pair of buddies behind the benches, so it may be a bit friendlier on some level, but no less intense.

  10. Boston Bruins. Two playoff series, one win.... Tim Taylor's toe.... Milan Lucic's hit on Brian Pothier and fights with John Erskine and Matt Bradley.... Chris Rooney's favorite team.... Donald Brashear's triple-minor.
So, what've you got?


Andi said...

You forgot the craptastic officiating in Game 7 last season. Questionable doesn't cover it.

Paul Nichols said...

I'd have to say Pittsburgh - simply because there's nobody I'd rather beat the crap out of than the Penguins.

Sombrero Guy said...

Your top 10 pretty much line up with mine. It really goes to show how playoff match ups can breed hatred.

JP said...

It really goes to show how playoff match ups can breed hatred.

Which is why Gary's realignment and scheduling that tried to force rivalries on us was/is stupid. You can play a team 8 times a year and it doesn't mean all that much. But one playoff series is sometimes all it takes for a great rivalry to be born.

If I was king for a day, I'd go back to two divisions per conference, with the top four teams in each division making the playoffs and playing within the division (i.e. 1v4, 2v3 with winners advancing) until the Conference Finals. That's how you build rivalries - in the Spring, not in the Fall and Winter.

tim :) said...

I feel like the Bruins should be a bit higher, especially after this season. The Islanders that high? Eh, maybe.

The reason I say bring the Bruins up is because we had some pretty brutal games with them recently, including that stellar 10-2 win on March 3rd (What a great one that was to attend).

Stella said...

I entirely agree with your top three. From there down I might re-arrange, moving Tampa up. (I keep waiting for someone to pound the crap out of that Little Snot St. Louis, but I suppose no one can catch him.) The Kolzig Factor will add some spice.

Throughout your narrative so many mentions of blown series leads is depressing. Time to develop a killer instinct.

bil said...

Didn't Dino get injured by a cheap shot slash in the playoffs against the Devils?

I'd move them higher up because of that, if only I could remember the facts of the case better...

Speaking of which, move the Isles up higher, please. I'm an old-school fan who loved Gus. (And, if I was an Islander fan, I'd never forgive Dale.)

Carolina? Meh. I actually kind of respect them. I understand there's a difference between rivalry and hatred (Atlanta moves up much higher on the Hatred-Meter), but still, I feel the rivalry with them is at about the level of the Bruins. Or Maple Leafs.

Gustafsson said...

You can play a team 8 times a year and it doesn't mean all that much. But one playoff series is sometimes all it takes for a great rivalry to be born.

Which is why the NHL needs to reorganize with 2 divisions in each conference and go back to the divisional playoffs to feed the conference finals.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Steven said...

Don't forget ATL is responsible for Ovie's missing front tooth.

Anonymous said...

That actually kind of endears me to ATL.

Lisa said...

Pens are the current nemesis but my long-term hatred is still reserved for the Flyers. Something more could develop with the Canes, especially if Laviolette sticks around. It was fun watching him blow a gasket in last season's 4-1 win.

Sombrero Guy said...

"Which is why Gary's realignment and scheduling that tried to force rivalries on us was/is stupid"

exactly what I was getting at. I'd be all for a 2 division conference.

DMG said...

While there's no doubt Pittsburgh is the Capitals number one rival, my personal dislike registers higher for the Flyers. It's almost like with Pittsburgh it's business and with the Flyers it's personal. The Pens are the biggest on-ice rival but honestly most of their best players are/were very talented and pretty likable and the way the team gets ragged on by hardcore NHL markets, had to be terrible for several years and reap the benefits of a slow rebuild and good drafting....as a Capitals fan, I can relate to that. With the Flyers, I find almost nothing good: the city sucks, the fans are jerks, the team is historically a bunch of cheap shot artists... In short, when the Capitals beat Pittsburgh I'm happy for the team to exact whatever small level of retribution they can for the past losses and when the Caps beat the Flyers I'm happy because I don't want anything good to come to the team.

I personally also hate Atlanta, but I think that's the result of being in Atlanta for five years. The team is horribly run and I've never been a fan of most of their players. Plus their uniforms are ugly and are essentially corporate sponsorship. Plus their ad campaign during their playoff drive included the line "there's plenty of room on the bandwagon".

Sombrero Guy said...

Penguins fans are just as obnoxious as Flyers fans in my experience. I actually like the city of Pittsburgh more than Philly. Once you get beyond sports, I have found Pittsburghers to be nice. People from Philly are miserable any way you look at it.

Hooks Orpik said...

sombrero guy: Mix in enough alcohol at sporting events and anyone is obnoxious (myself included).

JP said...

Related: Who's the Caps' top out of conference rival?

I'd reflexively say Detroit - based on the Finals (Tikkanen!), their bandwagon fanbase and the fact that they sent us Kevin Miller for Dino Ciccarelli (ugh) - but Chicago's coming on somewhat strong (McPhee/Molleken, the whoopin' they handed us last Spring, Huet, last year's Calder...). Thoughts?

Sombrero Guy said...

Hooks: Philly residents must be permanently drunk then.

Ogre said...

I used to ask this question a lot, and now I think it's the Flyers, no doubt, as I found myself in the situation that if they played each other, I wanted the Penguins to win. Ugh. Can't believe I said that. The more marketable rivalry is Caps Pens, so in the next few years that'll be forcefed to us until there's no doubt in our minds, but I can't stand the flyers.

jason said...

This list is spot-on. I don't know if ATL would make my top-10, but certainly it's very close to how I would rank them.

I also wanted Philly to lose to Pitt (in part because I knew Pitt had a far better team, and was tired of the Flyers overacheiving), but the sense of dread that comes with playing the Pens is unmatched.

I'd agree with Detroit as the top out-of-conference rival. In some ways, they're the only eligible team (only one the Caps have faced in the playoffs, barring any re-alignments I'm forgetting).

breed16 said...

I'd say the Pens but the weird thing is, it's not exactly a mutual rivalry. I bet 75% of Pens fans would say Philly is their #1 rival. We don't have a mutual, agreed upon two-way rivalry like 'Skins-Cowboys, just a bunch of teams we hate that always beat us when it matters most.

The rivalry will be born when the Caps stomp the Pens in 4 games in the playoffs next year. Bank.

JP said...

the weird thing is, it's not exactly a mutual rivalry

I agree, but that's the case in a bunch of places. For example, the Caps are probably currently the 'Canes #1 rival, right?

Ari said...

I'd put the Devils higher than the Rangers, just because Brodeur has owned the Caps for so long. The Caps always seem to be able to beat the Rangers to some extent, splitting the series or something.

@Bil - It was the Rangers' Kris King who injured Dino, not the Devils.

Jimmy Jazz said...

I'd cut it at #4. I don't think the Sabres can be counted as "rivals" just because their town's economy sucked so much that everyone had to move out--carrying their fandom to greener pastures.
I really wish the Pens hated us as much as we hate them. Ugh.

Josh said...

I love the list, and agree that some are not mutual rivalries or aren't on the same level. A lot of my friends are Flyers fans, and they don't really consider us to be a top rival. They hate the Rangers, Penguins, and Devils the most. After this past series the rivalry has been rekindled to them, but we really need to get back into a better division with Pitt, Philly, NYI, NYR, and NJD. I'd love to go back to the 2 division per conference structure. As always, great blog JP.

bill ball said...

I really like the first four, though I think the NYR tie with Carolina or Tampa.

Dust-ups with Tampa are also more in the immediate memory than those with the Isles, so I'd switch those two. I'm not even sure the Isles are that relevant of a rival any moreso than a NE division team. Last season the series' with Ottawa and Montreal were certainly more compelling anyway..

Though we've had some contentious matches and some awful officiating with Boston as of recent, they don't smack as rivals other than a co-competitor for the lower eschelon of the playoff grid. Honestly the thing I hate most about the Bruins is Julien's boring system. But despite their style of play, any one of Boston, NJ or Florida could evolve into legit rival with a playoff series. Otherwise these clubs mostly bore me.

As for a Western rival, yes our system and the Red Wings' compliment each other, and last season's match was masterful until Kolzig choked in the shootout. Just the same, Chicago best matches our brand as the underdog 'it' team of youth and talent. Plus the Huet factor.

Anonymous said...

pittsburgh is the only team I'm tired of losing to and truly despise.

detroit is arrogant and full of themselves - but probably not a rival.

i strongly dislike the sabres and rangers, but not enough to call them rivals.

the tampa playoff series has come and gone. honestly, so has the flyers one.

but, yes, (most) flyers' fans are trash too....

the islanders are from the past.

don't care about boston......

i think it's morally wrong to suggest atlanta and carolina belong on that list.

bottom line - we have no rivals per se. just one team I really, really hate....pittsburgh....

Anonymous said...

I kinda agree with all of these, except the Rangers are a little too high on the list.

We need more games vs. Pitt.

Anonymous said...

A "rival" is "a person or thing that is in a position to dispute another's preeminence or superiority."

The Caps haven't been in a postion to contest anyone's preeminence or superiority since 1998.

That's why this list is so funny. Pretty much none of the teams in the author's top 5 would consider the Capitals as one of their top rivals, in which case, can it even be considered a rivalry? I mean, doesn't there have to be mutual animosity? If there's no mutual animosity, isn't it just a case of a team being envious of another's superiority?

I'll use the Flyers as a perfect example. Most Flyers fans would agree with me that the Flyers top rivals are:

1. Pittsburgh
2. New Jersey
3. New York
4/5 Tampa Bay/Buffalo
6. Detroit

The Caps might, I stress, might, make the Flyers' top 10 rivalries - if we're talking all time.

A team needs to be relevant and there needs to be a history of fierce competition to create a rivalry. Prior to this past season, the Caps haven't been relevant since 1998, and they hadn't had a good playoff series against each other since the late 80's, if I recall correctly.

Sorry, but if the Caps hadn't snuck in to the playoffs on the last day and put up such a good fight (and kudos to them for doing so), the Caps would barely register on Philly's radar. Give me a couple more playoff battles and we'll talk.

LargeFarva said...


As a PENS FAN I can definitely state that you're right...we hate Philly the most and have a longer, more developed rivalry with them. Plus the inter-state thign. Anyone who thinks that Pittsburgh fans are obnoxious as Philly fans is nuts...
As far as the Caps are concerned it's more pitty and amazement that such a huge city could barely fill their rink and allow us to "invade" MCI/Verizon/whatever-it-is-this-week

Anonymous said...

Yawn. A Pens troll. How novel.

DC Optimist said...

I personally have Buffalo at #3. Sure that playoff series was a decade ago, but as long as Lindy Ruff is alive (or at least coaching the Sabres) my animosity lingers. Too bad lil' Danny Briere isn't there anymore though. There was a nice fresh reason to despise Buffalo.

pepper said...

I'm personally most fired up for games vs. the Pens, Rangers, and Flyers in that order. Its a stretch to come up with ten rivals, but that's what the summer is for.

On the Pitt vs. Flyers fans issue - at a Caps @ Pitt playoff game, Pens fans were taunting and spirited but also knowledgeable and passionate about the game of hockey, and two even handed me a couple of beers for the long ride home (after we lost, of course). In Philly, there's just this desperation and inferiority complex that leads the fans to act like idiots.

But I still hate Pitt more because of the aforementioned "dread" factor that I don't feel nearly as much for any other team.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should mark the date - today, a Pens fan (largefava) agreed with a Flyers fan (me). First sign of the apocolypse? Maybe. I just know I'm scared.

I just have a small observation on all the Flyers bashers of the world. Most every team's fan base has an opinion about Flyers fans.
Why is that?

I argue it's because when the Flyers are on the road, their fans fill the opposing team's building. Hence, you've all seen them in your buildings. [If you're making judgments on them without personal observation, then you're an ignorant moron and probably hate other ethnicities because your father did.]

Notice how no one on any boards has an opinion on the Caps' fans? It's because no one has ever seen one outside of the confines of the MCI center. Don't be like fair weather Penguins fans [and to those who argue they're not, good for you, but the stats bear it out on average, but that's a post for another day]. Support your team whether it wins or loses, be passionate and then one day, a Flyers fan might actually care about whether you hate our team and maybe -- just maybe -- might even decide to hate your team.

Until then, keep loving hockey!

Hux said...

I'm a Flyers fan, I know lots of other Flyers fans, and none of us consider the Caps rivals in any sense of the word. The top rival, historically, is the Devils, hands down, followed by the Rangers and then the Pens. Though we forget about the Pens rivalry every time their management declares bankruptcy, the team hits the skids, and their fan disappears. It's hard to be a rival to something like that. Every single Pens "fan" should be thanking Philly for helping build their new stadium. It's PA tax dollars building that thing, and guess which area pays the most PA taxes? Yes, that's right.. With a "rival" like that, it's easy to forget. As for the Caps? Meh.

Ben said...

Hey Japer!

It's your old pal Ben from that wonderful Caps-Flyers series. Wasn't that series just wonderful? I sure thought so.

While I mostly think that the Patrick division should be reformed, I think that the Caps rivalries have disappeared because the Southeast has never put three teams in the playoffs. It's a division with absolutely laughable depth.

I agree that Philly's biggest rival is New Jersey, though their relative suckage lately, combined with Crosby has made Pittsburgh a very strong contender.

I would love to see the Caps join the Flyers in the playoffs more often. Because we NEED more of this: