1. Geographical Location
For any rivalry to flourish there needs to be a close proximity between the two cities. There is a reason rivalries like Pittsburgh-Philly, Edmonton-Calgary, and LA-Anaheim-San Jose are as strong as they are. The cities are close so you see that team often. This is the same reason why a Boston-Vancouver rivalry never developed after their heated 2011 Stanley Cup Final match-up. The two teams just don’t see each other enough.
Pittsburgh and Columbus see a lot of each other over the season. Pittsburgh is 185 miles from Columbus, making it the closest NHL market to the city. The two teams have already met once
in what was a highly anticipated game and will meet three more times down the stretch.
2. Playoff History
It’s one thing to play a team a bunch of times in the regular season but rivalries are born in the playoffs. Look at Detroit-Colorado in the late 90’s or Toronto-Ottawa in the early 2000’s those were two of the biggest rivalries at the time because the teams were consistently meeting and having battles in the playoffs. The Jackets have only been to the playoffs twice but they did play Pittsburgh once in a very heated and memorable first round series.
3. They Fight
Since that playoff match-up the Jackets have played Pittsburgh 15 times including pre-season. In those games there have been 14 fights. Over that same time frame Columbus does not have double digit fights against any other team. It’s not like it has been just goons fighting either:
There are role players:
There are good players:
And there are Star players:
4. There’s controversy
In the clip above of Boone Jenner’s fight, you can see what lead to the scrum was a knee on knee hit Boone gave to Evgeni Malkin. That was called a tripping penalty and Boone was given a two minute penalty, on top of his five for fighting. Also in that contest you had Dalton Prout maliciously attack Sergi Plotnikov at the end of the game.
Neither player received supplemental discipline from the league, which further upset the Penguins fan-base.
Nothing though compares to the Brandon Dubinsky cross-check on Sidney Crosby.
This remains the most controversial hit between these two teams. Dubinsky attacks Crosby in front of the net with three cross-checks to the back and neck area. They were so bad Dubinsky even breaks his stick. Dubinsky was given a two minute minor on the play and received a one game suspension, which many felt was way too light.
5. Fans dislike each other
Finally a rivalry is nothing without the fans. Fans are the ones who remember those hits as much as the players do. Fans bring that hate and energy to the building and create that atmosphere the players feed on. It seems like every time these two teams meet there are fights in the stands. Fans are constantly getting into it on Twitter with Blue Jacket fans using #PensSuck.
Penguin fans are quick to give it right back and that chirping continues whenever these teams play. That helps to keep the rivalry going and grow it further.
While it will never be a strong as Penguins-Flyers or even Penguins-Capitals, there is no doubt that the Pittsburgh Penguins are the Blue Jackets biggest rival.