Since clinching their first berth in 1988, the New Jersey Devils have made the playoffs in 18 of the last 30 seasons. During that time, New Jersey has faced an array of different teams and some of the game’s all-time greats. Due to the time’s postseason formats and sheer circumstance, New Jersey’s perennial playoff years led them to encounter certain teams a lot more frequently than others.
Since 1988, the Devils have faced 17 different teams in the playoffs, having played 10 of those teams on more than one occasion. Ranked by amount of total playoff games and individual series played, New Jersey’s five greatest playoff opponents have created long-lasting rivalries and memories embedded in the minds of Devils fans—both good and bad.
No. 5: Boston Bruins
Times Played: 4
Total Games: 23
All-Time Record: 15-8
1988 Eastern Conference Finals (4-3, Loss)
1994 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals (4-2, Win)
1995 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals (4-1, Win)
2003 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals (4-1, Win)
While not be many individual memories might stand out over the four times these teams met in the playoffs, New Jersey defeated Boston en route to two of their Stanley Cup titles. Their first postseason clash was in 1988, when the Bruins halted New Jersey’s magical inaugural playoff run in a grueling seven-game series. The Devils first series triumph over Boston came in round two of the 1994 playoffs, before New Jersey succumbed to the New York Rangers. New Jersey opened the 1995 playoffs by beating Boston in five games before capturing their first Stanley Cup.
These experienced Bruins teams faced the devious neutral zone trap-deploying Devils squads, featuring the likes of blue liners Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Bruce Driver, and Ken Daneyko, along with veteran forwards John MacLean, Claude Lemieux, Stephane Richer—and of course a youthful Martin Brodeur. Most of this same defensive core, now seasoned playoff veterans, would help defeat Boston again in 2003 before capturing their third Stanley Cup Title.
No. 4: Carolina Hurricanes
Times Played: 4
Total Games: 24
All-Time Record: 10-14
2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-2, Win)
2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-2, Loss)
2006 Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-1, Loss)
2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-3, Loss)
Looking back, the Devils never came out of a playoff series against the Hurricanes with many positive takeaways. New Jersey even had to hop through hoops in their only postseason triumph over Carolina in 2001—a series that took six games to finish after New Jersey went up 3-0. Since relocating, Carolina has played the Devils four out of five times they made the playoffs. With the exception of 2001, Carolina made deep runs each time they defeated New Jersey, two of which included trips to the Stanley Cup Finals (2002, 2006).
Aside from the thunderous hits by Scott Stevens on Ron Francis and Shane Willis in 2001, the most defining moments in New Jersey’s playoff history with Carolina are rather forgettable instances (for Devils fans), like their late-game collapse in game two of their 2006 round two matchup, Brodeur’s 2009 game four meltdown after getting scored on with .2 seconds left, and Carolina winning game seven of that same series when they scored goals 80 seconds apart from each other.
No. 3: Pittsburgh Penguins
Times Played: 5
Total Games: 24
All-Time Record: 15-4
1991 Patrick Division Semifinals (4-3, Loss)
1993 Patrick Division Semifinals (4-1, Loss)
1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-1, Win)
1999 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-3, Loss)
2001 Eastern Conference Finals (4-1, Win)
Like with Boston, most younger fans probably won’t remember the first times New Jersey and Pittsburgh met in the playoffs. From 1991-1995, the Devils and Penguins had three postseason matchups, with Pittsburgh winning the first two. New Jersey pushed Pittsburgh to seven games in 1991, after which the Penguins went on to capture their first Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh made short work of New Jersey in their second postseason bout two years later, defeating them in five games. New Jersey’s first playoff series victory over Pittsburgh came during their 1995 cup run, in a round two matchup the Devils took in five.
The young up-and-coming Devils teams of the early 90s understandably struggled to contain Pittsburgh’s dynamic offenses that featured future hall-of-famers Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, and Joe Mullen. Pittsburgh upset the Devils four years later, serving them their second consecutive first round exit after finishing first in the Eastern Conference. The Devils made short work of Pittsburgh in their 2001 Eastern Conference Finals matchup, before losing to Colorado in the Stanley Cup Finals.
No. 2: Philadelphia Flyers
Times Played: 5
Total Games: 28
All-Time Record: 14-14
1995 Eastern Conference Finals (4-2, Win)
2000 Eastern Conference Finals (4-3, Win)
2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-1, Loss)
2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-1, Loss)
2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-1, Win)
New Jersey’s playoff history against the Flyers has a little bit of everything; from game-changing hits and big goals, to epic series comebacks. The first two times these teams met both occurred in the Eastern Conference Finals along the way to New Jersey capturing their 1995 and 2000 Stanley Cups. The Devils bested Philadelphia in six games during their 1995 matchup, and defeated them five years later in seven. Both teams met three times from 2004-2012, with Philadelphia prevailing in 2004, and upsetting New Jersey in 2010 before making their last Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
Two years later, the Devils won a round two bout during their 2012 playoff run that took them to the finals for a fifth time since 1995. Devils fans will say the most memorable playoff moment between these teams occurred in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals when New Jersey rallied from being down 3-1. That pivotal game seven will always be remembered by the devastating hit Scott Stevens delivered on Eric Lindros, along with Patrik Elias’ game-winning goal scored in the final minutes.
No. 1: New York Rangers
Times Played: 6
Total Games: 34
All-Time Record: 16-18
1992 Patrick Division Semifinals (4-3, Loss)
1994 Eastern Conference Finals (4-3, Loss)
1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-1, Loss)
2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-0, Win)
2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-1, Loss)
2012 Eastern Conference Finals (4-2, Win)
The infamous cross-river rivalry was formed from the frequent playoff matchups between these two teams throughout the 1990s. They met three times from 1992-1997, with the Rangers winning every series. The Devils would take two out of the next three playoff encounters from 2006-2012. Every series has at least one individual definitive moment fans of both teams remember. There was the 1992 brawl, Mark Messier’s game six guarantee, New Jersey’s 2006 sweep, Sean Avery’s antics in 2008, the game four scrum facilitated by Mike Rupp in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, along with the memorable overtime series-clinching goals scored by Stefan Matteau (game seven, 1994), Adam Graves (game five, 1997) and of course, Adam Henrique’s 2012 game six winner.
Despite meeting during different team and league eras, nothing eased the bitter rivalry established between these two franchises. Few teams in the post-expansion era have a playoff history as decorated and eventful, which is another key reason why New York is ranked as New Jersey’s greatest all-time playoff adversary.