Face-Off: Penguins, Flyers in Stadium Series is good for NHL


Joshua Axelrod and C.L. Kohuss debate whether the NHL going back to a Penguins-Flyers matchup for the 2019 Stadium Series is good for the league or a tired concept.

In FanSided’s NHL Face-Off series, two writers argue two sides of a hot-button hockey issue. We’ll post both pieces, and then our NHL editor will evaluate the arguments and determine a winner.

The NHL did well by pitting two Keystone State teams against each other in the 2019 Stadium Series game. Bad blood is usually a sure-fire key to success in sports, and this Battle of Pennsylvania will be no exception.

The Background

This year’s Stadium Series will be played on Feb. 23, 2019, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The last time these two teams met outdoors was in 2017 at Heinz Field, with the Penguins pulling out a 4-2 victory in front of 67,318 rabid fans who legitimately hate their rivals.

That’s a lot of hockey fans braving the frigid Pittsburgh winter to watch their favorite and their least favorite team play. So just in terms of attracting butts to seats and eyeballs to TV screens, the NHL couldn’t do much better than scheduling the best rivalry in the NHL for its biggest regular-season game.

The Case

It can’t be stressed enough how much these teams hate each other. Well, that needs to be clarified: Flyers fans HATE the Penguins, particularly Sidney Crosby, while Penguins fans get super annoyed at the Flyers’ passionate disdain for their star player.

Remember, the Flyers are the franchise that just a few months ago put photos of Crosby in the urinals at Wells Fargo Center during the teams’ playoff series. Flyers fans treat Crosby like a college soccer goalie, making his life a living hell every time he touches the puck with ferocious chants of “Crosby sucks!”

Penguins fans don’t get quite that personal, but they will chime in with the occasional “Flyers suck!” when provoked. Point being, all of this animosity has led to in-game theatrics that make for good TV, which will also play well on social media.

It’s also worth mentioning that this rivalry isn’t as lopsided as it has seemed in recent years. Sure, the Penguins have beaten the Flyers three out of the last four times they’ve met in the playoffs — all of those victories coming during the Crosby years, naturally — but historically the Flyers actually own the Penguins.

According to Hockey Reference, the two teams have met 285 times during the regular season since both franchises were established in 1967. The Flyers are currently crushing the Penguins in their all-time series 174-122-30, which includes playoff match-ups.

This rivalry was more like a perennial bloodbath until Mario Lemieux showed up in Pittsburgh and turned the Penguins’ culture around. And ever since Crosby became a Penguin in 2005, the Penguins have been the clearly more successful franchise, appearing in four Stanley Cups while winning three compared to the Flyers’ lone Stanley Cup loss in 2010.

The air of superiority the Penguins have cultivated during their era of prosperity has only incensed Flyers fans more, and nothing would make them happier than to watch their team thrash Crosby at home in front of a football stadium full of their crazed brethren.

Finally, this is a star-studded series, with big names like Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel going up against the likes of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov. It’s not exactly Crosby-Ovechkin, but there will be enough big names on the ice to appease hockey fans.

The Takeaway

This is pretty much the best the NHL could do for its 2019 Stadium Series. Setting up two teams with a genuine rivalry, a fascinating history and plenty of stars is as good as it gets. What’s not to like?

Not convinced? You can read C.L. Kohuss’ rebuttal here