The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings played a nail-biter Wednesday night that needed eight rounds of a shootout to decide, with the Sharks coming away with the two points in a 3-2 shootout victory.
Rory Boylen of The Hockey News believes, however, that the greatness of the Sharks and Kings transcends just a single game on a single night in November.
Boylen makes a case that the Sharks vs. Kings might be the best rivalry going in the National Hockey League today.
Annnnnnd, cue the howls of outrage from out east, where they will no doubt point to Original Six matchups such as the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings.
In the 1990s, I was in Joe Louis Arena for a Game 7 of a playoff series between the Leafs and Wings and it was clear that the teams, the cities and the fan bases couldn’t stand each other. It’s a rivalry that goes back decades.
But does just being old mean it’s necessarily the best right now?
We in the sports media can often become prisoners of the moment—whatever is happening right now is the most amazing, incredible, greatest thing, like, ever!
But Boylen makes a compelling case for San Jose vs. Los Angeles. It is a great rivalry. There is geography—the whole Northern California vs. Southern California thing that applied to so many other rivalries through the years, such as the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams or one that continues today—sometimes to tragic excess—between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If you’re looking for a great rivalry circa 2013-14, the Sharks and Kings might just be the one. They’re both contenders—the Kings won the Stanley Cup two years ago and the Sharks have been a regular season powerhouse for the last decade. The last four Western Conference Finals have featured either San Jose or Los Angeles.
The fact that neither San Jose or Los Angeles is known as a hotbed of hockey, yet have thousands of fans on both sides who drop everything when the teams hit the ice, speaks to the growth of the game away from its roots in Canada and northern tier of the U.S.
There’s also some freshly minted, but hella intense, playoff history, with the Sharks and Kings going the full seven games in the Western Conference semifinals last season with each game being decided by a single goal.
It doesn’t get much more intense than that for players, fans or coaches.
And there really is a good case to be made that as of right now, it is the best rivalry in the league, even if it doesn’t have the volumes of history that other rivalries from older clubs might.