Photo by Sports Illustrated

Rivalry Redux

The nature of the beast being the NHL season is that it is a new season and last season is long gone. Long gone is the parade for the Stanley Cup winner. Long gone are the playoff contenders and pretenders. Long gone are the miles that each team traveled in order to bring its season to fruition.

It is not often that an NHL season brings along the birth of something new. Most seasons are replays of the previous season in its basic dynamic. Long hard fought roads of teams that barely make playoffs, teams that have their own reason and emotional drive towards earning the cup, and teams that everyone wonders how the hell they didn’t make the playoffs at all.

It’s nice to see a new superstar kid who hasn’t developed a skill for shaving his face quite yet lift an entire city and perhaps an entire league ala Sidney Crosby, and even better when the journeyman veteran on his last leg gives a championship team a little more heart while the fans root for victories. But these are well played story lines by popular media outlets. We are overdue for something fresh on the HD plasmas. It’s an evolving game and the changes seen will eventually bring something to entertain the fans. While I don’t see the birth of anything new this upcoming season, I do see the rebirth of something the NHL needs.

Rivalry. Well… Rivalry: Part II.

I don’t want to take anything away from the Bruins-Canadians games or the attention they have drawn, but throughout the 1970’s, Philadelphia and Boston tormented each other in scarring battles. They met in the playoffs four times in five seasons, each team winning a series twice in the playoffs. The games between these two franchises were often bruising and bloody and both teams gave it all on the ice every time. The hate was so thick in the air when the puck dropped that it was visible to the naked eye.

1974 – The upstart Flyers beat the heavily favored Bruins in six games to win the Stanley Cup.

1976 – The Bruins are sent home in five games by the Flyers.

1977 – The Flyers are victims of the Bruins in a four game sweep.

1978 – The Bruins convincingly send the Flyers home for the summer after five games.

Apparently history has a way of quieting itself. That heated 70’s playoff rivalry did nothing for 32 years. A lot can happen in 32 years yet two dynamic sports towns with eight professional teams between them separated by 300 miles could not find a reason to despise the other. Well, no legitimate reason anyway.

In May 2010 the beginning of… well… the new beginning… began? The Bruins fell four games to three after having a 3-0 lead in the series. In the 2010-2011 season the teams played four times with the Bruins winning three out of four. The 4 games saw a total of 71 PIM. Then the Flyers were swept out of the playoffs quite easily, being outscored 20 -7. So now both teams have a reason to be pissed at the other.

This offseason Philadelphia changed everything. Despite trading away center pieces Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and signing Jaromir Jagr, Maxime Talbot, and Ilya Bryzgalov, among many other moves – wait… despite nothing!

The Flyers are better!

This season may prove to be the final piece to restoring a rivalry that fans will actually want to see. The new look Flyers are sure to be contenders in the Eastern Conference and the well built Bruins will have a run for their money in 2011-2012, unlike their last eight meetings.

In an NHL fantasy world, the next four meetings between the two teams (Oct 6, Dec 17, Jan 22, Mar 17) could set the stage for a three-peat of playoff opponents. I can only hope that the teams live up to their expectations and do not disappoint the recent growth of fans that missed this rivalry the first time around.

Follow me on Twitter @FanSidedDerekC




Tags: Boston Bruins Eastern Conference History Jagr Jeff Carter Mike Richards Philadelphia Flyers Rivalry Sidney Crosby Talbot Twitter

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