NHL Final Four: Tournament of Champions
In sports, when you get to a final of any kind, the quest is all-consuming because you never know when you might get back.
It's a little different in the NHL this season, as the final four teams are the last four Stanley Cup winners.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the title in 2009 after losing to Detroit the year before. Many thought the Pens would be back regularly, but injuries -- especially to Sidney Crosby -- have held them back. Pittsburgh was upset in both 2010 and 2011 by lower-seeded teams and last year fell apart against the Flyers in the first round. This season, other than a goalie change from Marc-Andre Fleury to Tomas Vokoun, the Pens have been steady as they try to get back to the Stanley Cup finals.
In 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, defeating the Flyers in six games. However, goalie Antti Niemi went to San José the next season, and the Blackhawks were elminated in the first round each of the following two years. This season, with goaltender Corey Crawford in his third full stint as the starter, the Hawks won the Presidents' Trophy and defeated Minnesota and Detroit in the playoffs, coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Red WIngs.
The Boston Bruins won their first title in 39 years in 2011, defeating Vancouver on the road in Game Seven to do so. The Bruins, led by goalie Tim Thomas, were amost eliminated by Montréal in the first round and lost the first two games of the finals, but came back to hoist the Cup. In 2012, Boston went out in the first round, but this season, after a miracle comeback in Game Seven of the first round against Toronto, the B's easily defeated the Rangers to advance to the Conference finals.
The Los Angeles Kings were the first Number Eight seed to win the Cup last season, led by goalie Jonathan Quick. The Kings defeated the top three seeds before knocking off the Devils for the Cup and this season joined the final four with wins over St Louis and San José.
So, there are your four champions, back in the final four with a chance to win again.
With a recent taste of victory still lingering in each team, the quest for the Cup could be even more intense this spring, if being more intense for a Cup chase is even possible.