Before the NHL suspended its season, a playoff race was heating up between two of the sport's biggest rivals. In 2018, the lower-seeded Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated by the defending Cup champs Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. This season, the Flyers had recently surged past the Penguins in the standings, and if the playoff started tomorrow, the Flyers would have home-ice advantage against their hated cross-state rivals.
To hold us over until the Flyers and Penguins take the ice again (whenever that will be), RADIO.COM Sports Simulations has challenged an all-time Flyers roster to a virtual game against an all-time Penguins squad using EA Sports NHL 20. Once again the Legion of Doom goes toe-to-toe with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Ron Francis. The Flyers famed LCB line (Reggie Leach, Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber) tests their mettle against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. Of course it’s Hall-of-Famer Bernie Parent who battles future Hall-of-Famer Marc-Andre Fleury in the crease. And since we are RADIO.COM Sports, we must include our own 94 WIP’s Keith Jones on the Flyers roster. He’s an all-time Philly guy beloved by the city and his coworkers alike:
But this rivalry was not always so heated. Out of the 333 meetings before Coronavirus cancellations, the Flyers have a 178-114-30-11 advantage, including playoffs. The Penguins have made up a lot of ground in the past 30 years; from February 7, 1974 through February 2, 1989, the Penguins were winless in Philadelphia going an obscene 0-39-3 at The Spectrum.
During the early 90s, as Lemieux, Jagr, Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, and Ron Francis were developing into a super team that captured back-to-back cups in 1991-92, the Flyers were embarking on a five-year playoff drought. Finally, it was the mid-to-late 90s that enjoyed both teams being respectable now that the Flyers boasted their own superstar in Eric Lindros. But the Flyers never reached the promised land with Lindros because his career was derailed by concussions. His first was delivered by the Penguins Darius Kasparaitis March 7th, 1998. The Flyers did not take too kindly with all the smiles on the Penguins bench after the devastating hit and the powder keg exploded in the second half of the home-and-home series the next day. It’s been nothing but fire and anger since.
The Flyers also aren’t kind to the Penguins superstars, either. In Crosby’s first game against the orange and black on November 16, 2005, hulking defenseman Derian Hatcher shattered three of Sid’s teeth with a high stick. The Flyers always play Crosby hard, which has prompted him to say that “I don’t like them… I don’t like any guy on their team.” This doesn’t help Crosby’s reputation with Flyers fans that he is a cry baby but that dislike fuels Sid’s production against Philly, scoring more goals against the Flyers than he has against any other opponent in his career.
The rivalry arguably reached its apex in April 2012. On April 1, 10 days before the Flyers and Penguins were to meet in the first round of the playoffs, the table was set when Flyer coach Peter Laviolette wanted a piece of anybody on the Pittsburgh Penguins bench after Danny Briere was hit with his head down during a Flyers 6-4 win. Ironically it was famed Flyers enforcer turned assistant coach Craig Berube that had to restrain Laviolette. During the Flyers 6 game triumph over the Penguins in the upcoming series, a combined 56 goals and 312 penalty minutes made the stat sheet. The Flyers scored 8 goals in both games 2 and 3 and the Penguins managed to light the lamp 10 times in game 4.
The Penguins are still loaded with stars and the Flyers were playing some of the best hockey in the NHL since Thanksgiving. The rivalry was definitely approaching 2012 levels as both teams are legitimate contenders. There will certainly be new chapters written about the “Battle of PA” when hockey does resume.