The NHL Conference Finals of Champions

After Wednesday night’s 2-1 Chicago Blackhawks Game 7 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings, hockey fans will be seeing arguably the best conference finals in NHL history.

The Blackhawks have joined the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins as the four remaining teams in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Look familiar? The last four Stanley Cup champions are the Kings, Bruins, Blackhawks and Penguins. For the first time since the NHL expanded to 12 teams for the 1967-68 season, the last four Stanley Cup champions are conference finalists:

nhl champions 1

There are many reasons why these recent champions have been able to make it to the conference finals. The Blackhawks, Bruins and Penguins have excelled in one of the most important statistics, goal differential:

nhl champions 2

While the Kings owned only the 11th-best goal differential over the last five combined regular seasons, they and the Bruins have had tremendous goaltending during that span. The last two Conn Smythe Trophy winners, Jonathan Quick and Tim Thomas, have been among the league’s most impressive goalies:

nhl champions 3

While Thomas is no longer with the Bruins, Quick has returned to defend his award. With the previous four Stanley Cup champions meeting in the conference finals for just the second time in NHL history, the most important games of the playoffs will be an incredible spectacle. Victory will taste even sweeter this time around for the team that ultimately drinks from Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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