What makes for a good rivalry in the NHL? Is it an intense playoff history? Frequent line brawls? Close and competitive games? Recently Rory Boylen of The Hockey News wrote an article making a convincing case for the - Sharks rivalry as the best in the modern NHL. He cited the teams' geographic proximity, the fact that both are highly talented, and their playoff wars as reasons this particular rivalry is the greatest, but there still seemed to be quite a few people who disagreed with him:
I'm happy for the success of the Kings (it was sooooo long coming), but the rivalry cannot be said to be in the same league as many of the others (Habs/Bruins, Habs/Leafs eg.) when hockey news is buried deep in the back of the sports sections of the California papers.
Way behind the Bruins/Canadiens!
So who was right? Rory or the random morons arguing with him on Twitter and the comments of his THN post? I did some research to find out, and have come up with the following definitive list of the absolute official five best rivalries in the modern NHL PERIOD.
#5 Leafs vs.
Though these two teams lose a lot of points for both being in the East and sucking pretty hard, they gain even more points for actually having old school full-on line brawls as a regular occurrence of their games. Check this out:
That's pretty damn sweet, right? And it's great because neither team actually seems to be trying to win games or anything so they can both concentrate on just getting a bunch of goons and acting "tough" and all that dumb stuff. It's really fun to watch, as long as you aren't actually a fan of either flaming embarrassment of a team.
This rivalry was built on three straight playoff match-ups, from 2009 through 2011. This rivalry was intense because these two teams were, at their peaks, two of the biggest powers in the superior Western Conference, but it would be impossible to rank this any higher than the fourth-best rivalry in the NHL since both teams are now in decline and they don't even play in the same division or anything.
While these two teams have never met in the playoffs, the "Freeway Face-Off" is the only one of the top five modern NHL rivalries lucky enough to have its own stupid name, so that's got to count for something, right? This rivalry also benefits from intimate geographic proximity and, funnily enough, a blog devoted specifically to the exploits of these two California teams!
#2 Sharks vs. Ducks
This rivalry has been brewing for years, as the two younger California teams have battled for position. It reached a peak in 2009 with San Jose's embarrassing upset defeat to the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs, and the Sharks have been looking for revenge ever since.
#1 Kings vs. Sharks
Rory Boylen was totally right. This rivalry really does have it all. Two of the very best teams from the best division in the best conference in the best state! You want more? How about two intense and close-as-can-be playoff series in 2011 and 2013?
No other rivalry can even come close to the perfection that is Kings vs. Sharks. We can immediately disqualify all the rivalries involving Eastern teams because of crappiness, and then all we need to do is to examine the possibilities of the naturally superior rivalries that occur within divisions (and preferably within states) rather than those that cross divisions or borders. Once we've accepted those logical provisions, the answer for best rivalry becomes painfully obvious. It's Kings vs. Sharks all the way.
And it certainly doesn't hurt that the best blog in the universe is devoted to covering the best rivalry.
Nobody cares about Sharks vs. Leafs. These two teams hardly ever play each other, and there's no reason to expect this game will have anywhere near the intensity of something like Leafs vs. Sabres or Sharks vs. Kings.
Still, it IS hockey. So that's pretty good I guess.
Prediction: The Sharks average the most shots per game and the Leafs allow the most, so the Sharks will probably out-shoot the Leafs like 60-25 and still somehow lose, because why not?
Video Gamery: My 56th-favorite video game is Rome: Total War. The rivalry between the Romans and the Carthaginians was ALMOST as good as Kings vs. Sharks.