The Capitals–Flyers rivalry is a National Hockey League (NHL) rivalry between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey clubs. Both teams compete in the NHL's Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division. The two teams have been rivals since the Capitals inception in the 1974-75 season, but became most intense in the 1980s when the Capitals joined the Patrick Division. The rivalry was renewed in the late 2000s and 2010s with both teams being equally competitive resulting in two playoff matches in 2008 and 2016.
Due to the proximity of each team (142 miles from Philadelphia to Washington via Interstate 95), the Flyers and Capitals are natural rivals. It was common for the Capital Centre, where the Capitals played, to be filled with many Flyers fans during the meetings. This led to an intense hatred for Capitals fans, and became even more intense when they would join the Flyers in the Patrick Division. After struggling for close to a decade, the Capitals finally made the playoffs in 1983, but would not meet the Flyers until the next season. The Capitals, then led by Mike Gartner and Rod Langway, got their first playoff series win in franchise history by defeating the Flyers in the 1984 Patrick Division semifinals 3-0 in a best of five. This stunning sweep would also mark the end of two legendary Flyers careers, Bobby Clarke and Bill Barber.
The two teams would meet again in the 1988 Patrick Division semifinals. This time, the Flyers would take a 3 games to 1 lead, only to have the Capitals come back and force a game 7. The two teams sent the game into overtime, and Capitals forward Dale Hunter would win it for the Caps, making it one of the greatest playoff memories in team history.
The Flyers would get their revenge the following season in 1989, as the Flyers would win the series 4 games to 2. The series is perhaps best remembered for a historical feat committed by Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall. Hextall became the first NHL goaltender to score a goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs, by shooting the puck into the empty net. Hextall was also the first to do that feat in the regular season, having done it the year before.
Perhaps the most notable moment of the rivalry in the 1990s was of a fight filled game at the Cap Centre. On February 10, 1991, the Flyers and Caps faced off in one of the most violent games between the two teams. The first period was fight filled, but the most notable moment happened in the third period with the Caps leading big. Capitals forward Dale Hunter laid a vicious elbow to the face of Flyers defenseman Gord Murphy, which sent Flyers head coach Paul Holmgren into a frenzy, as he banged a stick against the plexiglass that separates the team benches and got in a shouting match with Capital head coach Terry Murray and enforcer Alan May. The Flyers would later respond with enforcer Craig Berube crushing Capitals goalie Don Beaupre behind the net. This led to another brawl and many fines for both teams. Each team was fined $5000 and Paul Holmgren was fine $1000 for his actions. Dale Hunter would go on to receive a 4-game suspension for his hit on Gord Murphy.
Another notable moment would be of another brawl, this time in The Spectrum. Flyers goalie Ron Hextall and Caps forward Rob Pearson would get into a notable scrum in February 1995, but would be the last notable moment between the two teams for many seasons.
The rivalry would grow dormant throughout the rest of the decade, as the two teams would not meet in the playoffs in the newly constructed Atlantic Division. With the 1998 realignment moving the Capitals into the Southeast Division, the rivalry grew even more dormant, especially as the Capitals would begin to struggle.
With the arrival of the Capitals new, young star Alexander Ovechkin, this led to a rebirth of the intensity between the two teams. After 19 seasons, the two teams would finally meet again in the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Capitals star Alex Ovechkin made an impact early, as he scored the game-winning goal in Game 1. The Flyers would go on to win the next three games, with game 4 being won by Flyers forward Mike Knuble in double-overtime. In memories of the 1988 series, the Capitals would force a game 7 back in Washington, this time with the Flyers coming out on top, with Flyers forward Joffrey Lupul winning the series for Philadelphia.
The rivalry became its most intense since the 1980s, especially during the 2013-14 season. The Flyers were off to a miserable start to the season, and would face the Capitals on November 1, 2013. The Capitals would crush the Flyers 7-0 in Philadelphia, with Flyers fans chanting for GM Paul Holmgren to be fired. But the most notable moment of the game was the line-brawl during the third period. Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds would dish out a huge hit on Capitals defenseman Steven Oleksy, which would lead to Simmonds dropping the gloves with the Capitals Tom Wilson, leading to a brawl. Flyers goaltender Ray Emery would join in and fight Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who was an unwitting combatant. Emery was given two minutes for instigating, two for leaving the crease, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct. Despite the controversy surrounding the brawl, the Flyers cited the game as a rally cry, and would make the playoffs, despite the slow start to the season.
Later that season, on March 5, 2014, the two teams would engage in another fight filled game. This time in an eventual 6-4 Flyers win, the brawl would start early as Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn checked Caps forward Ryan Stoa into the boards, which led to a fight between Schenn and Tom Wilson. At the same time, the Flyers Vincent Lecavalier and Capitals John Erskine fought, as did Wayne Simmonds and the Capitals Connor Carrick. The brawl, coincidentally, occurred on the 10-year anniversary of the famous Flyers brawl with the Ottawa Senators.
After storming to make the playoffs, the Flyers and Caps would face off in the 2016 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Capitals were the Presidents' Trophy winners and were heavily favored. The Caps would take a 3-0 series lead, but the Flyers would extend it to game 6, thanks to a brilliant 44-save performance by goaltender (and former Capital) Michal Neuvirth. The Flyers would only have 11 shots during the game, the fewest in franchise history for a playoff game. The Capitals would win game 6, however, to win the series 4 games to 2.
- National Hockey League rivalries
- Flyers–Rangers rivalry
- Capitals–Rangers rivalry
- Flyers–Penguins rivalry
- Capitals–Penguins rivalry
- ↑ Capitals vs. Flyers: The Philthy Rivalry (January 27, 2016).
- ↑ Capitals vs. Flyers: The Philthy Rivalry (January 27, 2016).
- ↑ Ranking The Rivalry – Philadelphia vs Washington.
- ↑ Capitals, Flyers fined for fight-filled game (March 5, 1991).
- ↑ Leahy, Sean (November 1, 2017). Flyers, Capitals engage in line brawl featuring Ray Emery vs. Braden Holtby.
- ↑ Gonzalez, John (March 5, 2014). FLYERS, CAPITALS ENGAGE IN ANOTHER LINE BRAWL.
- ↑ Brown, Katie (April 22, 2016). Neuvirth, Flyers shut out Capitals in Game 5 win. NHL Enterprise, L.P..
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