The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins are suiting up for an extended battle in 2021.
Fear not hockey fans; not only is the NHL season set to return for an abbreviated 56 game season starting on January 13th but one of the league’s best rivalries, that between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, is safe for the 2020-21 NHL season.
That’s right, after rumors of a hypothetical single-season realignment that could shift the Penguins into the Atlantic Division alongside the Columbus Blue Jackets, the NHL took things in a different direction – formulating a new ‘East Division’ that also features the Boston Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres, the New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, and the Washington Capitals.
My friends, it’s safe to say the ‘Battle of Pennsylvania’ is back, and fortunately for hockey fans in the Keystone State, it looks like the rivalry is not only back but bigger than ever.
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With the NHL not only realigned to allow for a Canada-only division due to a closed border with the United States but also set to feature a slate of intradivision-only games during the regular season, the Flyers and the Penguins will get to extend their rivalry past their current 333 game clip eight times over the next five months.
Now granted, things won’t be perfect, as fans won’t be allowed in either the Wells Fargo Center or the PPG Paints Arena anytime soon, but after watching the typical NHL start window come and go and the hockey-less fall stretch into winter, I think most fans will take what they can get. Even from the confines of your home, it’s still incredibly fun to watch two teams that genuinely don’t seem to like each other take each other on multiple times a month -maybe even multiple times in the same week.
To make matters all the more intriguing, with the Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres now intradivision foes, each of those eight games will be incredibly vital to either team making the playoffs, as both the Flyers and the Penguins will be fighting hard with teams like the Caps, Islanders, and Rangers for a playoff spot. Suddenly each game has additional weight, has greater implications, and carries a mini-playoff atmosphere the likes of which only late-season iterations typically carry.
After six months away, the 2020-21 NHL season is shaping up to be one of the more exciting ones in recent memory – especially if both teams do make the playoffs, as the first two rounds of the 2021 NHL Playoffs are intradivision too. We could ultimately end up with 15 Flyers-Penguins games with the winner ending up in the Conference Finals, and that, my friends, is a beautiful, beautiful thing.