Feb. 27, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers right wing Marian Gaborik (10) shoots on New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Rangers won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
With the New York Rangers facing the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals, the question on eveyone's mind is this: What was every local postseason matchup in the history of the four major sports? Well, I'm glad everyone asked because here they are. What's better than rivals who play right next to each other squaring off in the playoffs? It's just like brothers beating the snot out of each other in the backyard (though siblings most likely don't shake hands when the brouhaha has concluded). Local, of course, includes Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and New Jersey. And here's the list. Every one of them.
It all stated in 1889, when the New York Giants and Brooklyn Bridegrooms faced each other in a precursor to the World Series. The Giants were the best team in the National League that year, while Brooklyn was tops in the American Association. The Giants won the local war, and it was already Wait Until Next Year for Brooklyn. Moving on to the 20th century, the Giants battled the American League's pennant winner, the New York Yankees, in 1921 and John McGraw's team came out on top. The following year's rematch resulted in the same outcome, but the third time around in 1923 was the charm for the Yankees, as they won their first World Series, beating the Giants in Yankee Stadium's inaugural year. The Yankees continued their luck against the Giants, beating them in 1936, '37 and '51, before the NL team headed out west to San Francisco.
The Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers met in the World Series seemingly every year of the 1940s and '50s, though it was really only seven times ('41, '47, '49, '52, '53, '55, '56). The Yanks won all but one of those, with the Dodgers winning their only title in Brooklyn in '55. What about the famous three-game playoff series between the Giants and Dodgers in 1951, which ended with the Shot Heard Round the World? Those games actually counted as part of the regular season. And the only New York-New York postseason matchup since 1956 was, of course, the 2000 World Series, when the Yankees beat the New York Mets, four games to one.
There have been no playoff football games with local teams facing each other. Not even in the 1920s and '30s, when the Staten Island Stapletons and Brooklyn Dodgers played in the NFL alongside the New York Giants (we're not counting the Buffalo Bills in this equation). And if we're disqualifying the Bills in football, then the Buffalo Braves, Rochester Royals and Syracuse Nationals won't make the cut in basketball, which leaves us with the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets (well, now Brooklyn Nets -- couldn't they have changed their name to the Bridgrooms in a nod to tradition?). Those two teams met three times in the postseason, all in the first round, with the Knicks winning in 1983 and '94, and the Nets coming out on top in 2004.
And now on to the good stuff: Hockey. Way back in 1929 and '38, the Rangers matched up against the old New York Americans, with the Blueshirts winning the first time and the Americans avenging their loss nine years later. The first modern meeting came in 1975, when the New York Islanders shocked the Rangers, two games to one, on J.P. Parise's overtime goal. The Rangers got their revenge four years later, stunning the powerhouse Islanders, in six games, to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, where they fell to the Montreal Canadiens. During the Islanders' run of Stanley Cup years, they routinely dispatched the Rangers, each season from 1981 to '84. It was finally the Devils' turn to get in on the fun, when they beat the Islanders in those two teams' only postseason matchup, in 1988. The Rangers have since dominated the regional playoff meetings, defeating the Islanders in 1990, the Devils in '92, both the Islanders and Devils in '94, and the Devils again in '97 and 2008. New Jersey beat the Rangers for the only time in 2006, sweeping the Blueshirts. The WHA's New York Golden Blades/New Jersey Knights never managed to squirm into the action.
And now we get one more matchup to add to the list, with the Rangers and Devils meeting once again starting on Monday night. Will a Parise doom the Rangers once more? Or will there be a new Stephane Matteau? We'll soon find out.