One by one, the old guard vanished – poof – from the playoff scene in the NHL's Western Conference. The Detroit Red Wings, the gold standard for going on two decades, out in the first round. The Vancouver Canucks, Presidents' Trophy winners for the best record in the league two years in a row, gone in the first round. The Chicago Blackhawks, champions as recently as 2010, gone in the first round. San Jose Sharks, perennial contenders, gone in the first round.
What's left is a new and comparatively unknown collection of challengers, a quartet of teams that cumulatively have won zero Stanley Cups in more than a century of collective existence, teams that have gone decades in some cases between playoff series wins, teams that have been waiting patiently to move into the spotlight.
There is nothing particularly sexy about the Nashville Predators or the St. Louis Blues or the Phoenix Coyotes or the Los Angeles Kings. They are defensively sound, battle-tested teams, all prepared to win every game by a 1-0 margin if necessary. Only one of the four teams, (Phoenix with Radim Vrbata), boasts even a single 30-goal scorer.