When the Penguins open their Eastern Conference semifinal series tomorrow against the Ottawa Senators, it will mark the fourth time in seven postseasons the two teams have met in the playoffs. The only teams the Penguins have faced more often in their postseason history are the Capitals (eight), Flyers (six) and Devils (five). Unlike the Senators, those three teams are all relatively close to Pittsburgh geographically and have primarily been in the same division as the Penguins.
Over the years, several heated moments have occurred between the Penguins and Senators in the regular season and postseasons such as Andy Sutton's hit to the head of Jordan Leopold or Matt Cooke's skate cutting the Achilles tendon of Erik Karlsson.
But does all of that make this a true rivalry? Thoughts of Philadelphia's Tim Kerr or Washington's Alex Ovechkin are more likely associated in terms of heated postseason battles involving the Penguins than Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson.
Today, four players of the five players on the Penguins roster who have been a part of the three previous postseason series between these two teams were asked if this was a true rivalry:
Brooks Orpik, defenseman - "I think you’d think so just because it’s the playoffs. Obviously, When someone ends your season, that usually has more of an effect on you. I don’t think anyone comes close to the Flyers, not even the Capitals. People who are lifelong Pens fan might see it a different way but nothing comes quite close to the Penguins and Flyers to me."
Sidney Crosby, center - “I’m not sure. I think any playoff matchup I would consider a rivalry. That’s kind of typical in the playoffs where everything develops. With the history with them, I’m sure there’s a bit extra there but I think at this point you want every game just as you much against any rival.”
Marc-Andre Fleury, goaltender - "I don’t think I would call it the same rivalry as it iswith Washington of ‘Philly.’ It’s different. We’ve played them a lot in the past few years. Everything that happed with Karlsson will add heat to it."
Mark Eaton, defenseman - "I think that’s how the best rivalries start, when you see a team often in playoffs because that’s when things are ramped up and teams want it more. It’s what bring the best out in teams. I think you could definitely say it’s a rivalry."
-Evgeni Malkin has also participated in the three previous series.
-Eaton was on the roster for the Penguins sweep of the Senators in a 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinal but did not play due to injury.
(Photo: Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)