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Morning Skate: The NHL playoffs are suddenly fresh again

No Ducks, Blackhawks or Kings is actually a good thing.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Lace 'em up. Time for the Morning Skate.

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SAY HELLO TO THE NEW GUYS

The Western Conference playoffs suddenly seem a little fresh.

For the fourth straight season, the Anaheim Ducks fell in a Game 7 on Wednesday night. This time they did so in the first round, and to a Wild Card team in Nashville. It's certainly a low point for coach Bruce Boudreau and his Ducks, but it leads to a high point for the Western Conference overall.

If you're not from California or Chicago then the NHL playoffs may have grown a little stale over the last few years with the Kings, Ducks and Blackhawks all dominating the conference and the playoffs. And now they're all gone, fallen to the Sharks, Predators and Blues, respectively.

Here are the last Stanley Cup appearances for the remaining Western Conference playoff teams:

Dallas: 2000

St. Louis: 1970

Nashville: Never

San Jose: Never

This is good. It's exciting! We're now guaranteed a 50 percent chance that someone wins the Stanley Cup for the first time in ages. That's how you grow fan bases in "non-traditional" hockey markets. It's great for the league, it's great for the sport and it should be so much fun to watch.

ISLES TAKE GAME 1

Maybe Tampa Bay's injury woes are going to be a problem. The Lightning got defused in Game 1, falling 5-3 to the Islanders. Ben Bishop had to be removed from the game. Speaking of ...

VEZINA TIME

The Vezina Trophy nominees were announced early last night, and you'll be shocked to learn Braden Holtby was one of them. Of course you aren't. Holtby's fantastic season makes him the frontrunner, but he'll be going up against Lightning goalie Ben Bishop and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

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TONIGHT'S PLAYOFF FUN:
NEWS AND NOTES: