NHL: Predators, Knights reflect West Conference changing of the guard – STLtoday.com

The Predators have the Presidents’ Trophy, and the NHL-expansion Golden Knights carry the buzz entering the Western Conference playoffs, which have the potential of resembling nothing from the past.

So step aside Chicago, which missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years; and say bye to the Blues, whose six-year playoff run is over.

The changing of the West’s guard begins at the top, where Nashville clinched its first Central Division title by running away with the league’s best record. And then there’s Vegas, which broke every measureable NHL expansion record for success by going 51-24-7 to win the Pacific Division.

Add in the talent-laden Winnipeg Jets, making their franchise’s third playoff appearance, and youth-filled Colorado Avalanche, who clinched their second berth in eight years, and it results in three of four first-time postseason matchups: Nashville versus Colorado, Vegas versus Los Angeles and Winnipeg facing Minnesota.

The fourth matchup has Anaheim facing San Jose for only the second time after the Ducks eliminated the Sharks in six games during a 2009 first-round series.

Of the eight teams, only three have won the Stanley Cup (Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles), while two have never won a playoff game (Vegas and Winnipeg, formerly Atlanta).

The weight of expectations falls mostly on the Predators, who won’t be underestimated a year after the eighth-seeded team’s surge to the Final ended in a six-game loss to Pittsburgh. It was a run Nashville began against Chicago in becoming the first team to sweep a No. 1 seed in the opening round since the current playoff format was set in 1994.

“I think our guys are well aware of what went on last year,” Predators coach

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