No surprise here, right? I’d hope not, if you’ve had a pulse for the last five, ten, twenty years. We have finally reached the top of the list, or the Pitt, if you prefer. Before we dive into our hatred of all Pennsylvanian Penguin-related things, a quick rundown of the list up to this point:
#7 The unfamiliar Columbus Blue Jackets
#6 The annoying New Jersey Devils
#5 The obnoxious Carolina Hurricanes
#4 The unlovable Philadelphia Flyers
#3 The respectfully disliked New York Islanders
#2 The wretched New York Rangers
Now, the absolute, undisputed number one rival for the Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan division…
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins
Rivalry history: Pittsburgh and Washington have met in the playoffs eight times. The Caps have held a series lead in seven of the eight series, but have only beaten Pittsburgh in their first round series of the 1994 playoffs. Most recently, the teams met in the second round of the 2009 playoffs, in what turned out to be one of the most thrilling seven game series to date. In game two, both Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin netted hat-tricks. The Caps took a 2-0 series lead after the game, but Pittsburgh stormed back to win the next three games, with game three and five going to overtime. The Caps returned the overtime favor in game six, forcing a seventh game after David Steckel’s goal in the extra session. The Caps, once again, got blown out on home ice in game seven.
The two clubs also squared off in the first annual Winter Classic in Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Caps emerged victorious, but the real story was the elbow from David Steckel that Crosby took to the head away from the play, causing him to suffer a concussion that he would battle for months.
This rivalry also contains the feud between Ovechkin and the man drafted right behind him, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin. The origins of the feud are unknown, but it is reported that Ovechkin took a swing at Malkin’s agent outside of a club in Moscow, and it is known that Ovechkin has taken a few runs at Malkin on the ice.
Reasons for future rivalry: This is a rivalry that will last at least as long as the careers of Crosby and Ovechkin, and that’s because of them being consecutive number one overall draft picks, and the fact that neither will ever don a different uniform (my guess.) Critics are always going to compare the accolades of the two, and for now it is a fairly universal consensus that Crosby has the upper-hand. He has two trips to the finals but only one Cup, so Ovechkin only has to win one to at least get back into the conversation. Both Pittsburgh and Washington were rebuilding at the same time, so their other foundational stars like Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Kris Letang, and Malkin are also around the same age, and thus have been and will be butting heads for a long time. The fans involved in this rivalry also will never forget their hatred for each other, mostly as a result of the Caps injuring Crosby, and the Caps always getting their cookies stolen from the Pens in the playoffs.
This rivalry being born again in a divisional setting is the sole reason I cannot wait until next season…
These two rivals will meet twice this season at the Verizon Center: Wednesday, November 20th and Monday March 10th. The average ticket price for Penguins vs. Capitals tickets is $183.56 with the lowest price at $68 for the November meeting and only $64 for the March match up. Let’s make sure Crosby and co. see a sea of red when they visit this season!