Flyers-Devils: Dissecting a rivalry
NHL rivalries originate from a wide variety of sources: protracted playoff battles (Detroit-Colorado), bitter personality clashes (Anaheim under Burke-Edmonton under Lowe), regional pride (Battle of Alberta), or pure dominance (Nashville-Columbus).
We love rivalries for the excitement that automatically inject into the game. When the New York Rangers come to the Wachovia Center, it’s like a carnival in South Philly. Even during the lost season—you know, the one where the Philadelphia Flyers finished last in the league and then were robbed of the number one pick by Chicago—people would pack themselves into the arena early for the chance to whistle at Jaromir Jagr or take their best shot at Sean Avery. They sat on the edge of their seats, anticipating another round from Colton Orr and Riley Cote. Two points against a divisional opponent were up for grabs, and no one wanted those filthy Ranger fans sitting in the upper bowl to walk away happy.
Matchups with the New Jersey Devils, though, have always felt different because of the Devils’ power over the Flyers. For an entire decade, I watched the Black and Orange battle all season to take the top spot in the Atlantic Division, only to watch New Jersey knock them out in the playoffs. I remember standing in the Wachovia Center the night Martin Brodeur broke Bernie Parent’s record for most single season victories. We Flyers fans consoled ourselves by thinking, “At least we’re not over the in Spectrum, the building where Parent earned that record in an era without overtime victories.”
And I recall the Scott Stevens hit that ended the Eric Lindros era in Philadelphia. Flyer fans desperately wanted to get to the promised land once again, and Lindros was the heralded savior sent to the lead the way. Sure, he had his head down and sure, he was concussion-prone from day one. But he was our head-down-concussion-prone guy. The image of that hit comes to mind each time I see the Devils play.
For many years, the Flyers have struggled to defeat the Devils, whether we’re talking regular season or playoff game. It’s not that the Flyers couldn’t beat the trap; it was just a mental hurdle they never seemed to conquer. Last season, however, Marty Biron dished out a 4-0 shutout to the Devils in October; ever since, we’ve witnessed real games where the Flyers actually have chances to win. The Flyers dominated the first two games against the Devils this year, solving Martin Brodeur and pushing back against the tough-checking John Madden line.
It’s odd to consider that Martin Brodeur will not be in net this evening. That hasn’t happened since 2002, when John Vanviesbrouck allowed one goal to give the Flyers a victory. Perhaps Scott Clemmensen will offer up a similar favor . . . .
I’ll be at the game this evening, so no blog until later.