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NHL's Rivals Match Up on Opening Night

by Photo of Michael Menichini

A look into the rivalries that will kick off the 2014-2015 NHL season.

NHL's Rivals Match Up on Opening Night

The puck drops on the 2014-2015 NHL season this Wednesday, and it is starting with a BANG! Or should I say a crash against the boards? The league has labeled the date “Wednesday Night Rivalry” which will feature some of the league's most historical and heavy hitting match-ups, like:

• Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
• Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins
• Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames
• San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Those are some exciting games that play on both past and recent history, and it's certainly an exciting way to kick things off. Before the puck drops tomorrow night, let's look into the history of these rivalries and weigh in on which teams will come out on top on opening night. 

Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Although the Canadiens and Maple leafs have been  NHL rivals for as long as hockey fans can remember the true rivalry between Canada’s two biggest cities can be traced back all the way to 1759 with the French defeat of Quebec City at the Plains of Abraham. The country has been divided by the Anglophone and Francophone languages ever since. Just to clarify, Anglophones are English-speaking Canadians which inhabit most of Montreal and Francophones are French-speaking Canadians which make up most of Toronto.  

Needless to say the cultural tension this language barrier has caused has been lived out vicariously through their fans and the players. I’m going to favor the Canadiens over the Maple Leafs this year due to their more than impressive goaltender, Carey Price. Although the Canadiens have gotten younger and the Maple leafs have the size advantage I think the Montreal captains and A.C.'s will be able to teach these young ones how to perform at the professional level in no time. 

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins

Avid hockey fans will tell you that these bruisers first started butting heads in 1974 where the Flyers beat the Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I on the other hand believe that the fire was truly fueled in 2010 when the Flyers came back from an 0-3 deficit to defeat the Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It was an amazing feat for Philadelphia sports. Unfortunately, their joy was short lived when the Bruins came back to sweep the Flyers in the 2011 Semis. I favor the Flyers in this matchup. I know most people will think I’m crazy, but I’ve been called worse. Although their previous seasons were rough I expect there to be some Philly magic on the road to accompany the tremendous amount of heart this team exhibits on the ice.   

Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames

Vancouver and Calgary’s disdain for one another can be attributed to their respective city’s political views as well as their geographic location. The two largest cities in Western Canada are divided by the Rocky Mountains. Vancouver is considered to be more liberal and to the left, while Calgary has been more conservative and right wing. Between the years 1982 and 1994, the teams matched up five times in the playoffs with the last two series going all the way to Game 7. Calgary held the lead with a 3-2 margin over Vancouver.  

The rivalry calmed down a bit during the later half of the 90’s but was reignited during the early 2000s when the captains of these teams (Markus Naslund of Vancouver and Jarome Iginla of Calgary) were fighting for the Art Ross Trophy. On January 18, 2014 at the Rogers Arena, Flames coach Bob Hartley started his 4th line of bruisers.  Naturally, Canucks coach John Tortorella retaliated by sending out his 4th line for the opening face-off. The face-off almost immediately turned into a “glove-off” as soon as the puck hit the ice. The fight included all 10 skaters on the ice and was followed up with 8 ejections. As far as current match ups go, I’m going to side with the Canucks only because I’m a huge Ryan Miller fan and am hoping for him to have a Sabres-esque career with the Vancouver.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

In 1967, the NHL began expanding and thus created the Los Angeles Kings and the California Golden Seals (who we know today as the San Jose Sharks). They were the only teams located west of the Mississippi river with the St. Louis Blues just on the other side. They created two teams in order to cut down travel times. Being the only two teams on the West Coast meant traveling East so that there was a Western Division. With each team eager to be the West Coast “Golden Boy”, a vicious rivalry was born. It should come as no surprise that the Kings are favored this time around. They look just as good as ever, if not better, and they’re coming off their second Stanley Cup victory in three years. With all stars like Richards, Carter, and Quick it’s game over San Jose. Look out for the Kings to potentially repeat this year.

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