On the surface, I could tell you that this is the first time in four years that both of last season’s Stanley Cup finalists have been eliminated in the first round. But then I’d have to tell you that if you look at the big picture, it’s actually the sixth time in the last 10 seasons that both of the defending conference champions are missing from the Conference Semifinals.

We haven’t seen a repeat Cup champion since the Red Wings won it all in 1997 and 1998. I could try to figure out the reasons why (salary cap? with the game being faster and tougher than ever, a long post-season takes a bigger toll on the body?) or I could just give you the facts.

Here they are.

After a stretch that saw three out of four Cup champions between 1997 and 2000 get back to the Cup Final the following year, the finalists have pretty much gone dry since.

Only three of the last 20 Stanley Cup finalists have even made it to the Conference Finals the following season. Two of those happened in the same year, when the Penguins and Red Wings repeated as East and West champs and met in the 2009 Final. The other happened in 2002, when the defending champion Avalanche made the West Final before bowing out to the eventual Cup winning Red Wings.

Other than that, three Cup finalists out of the last 20 have been eliminated in the second round, 10 have now been eliminated in the first round and four have missed the playoffs all together.

You can downplay the famed “Stanley Cup hangover” all you want. You can dispel it as a mere myth. But if 10 years is a long enough “sample size” for you, then it’s real, and we’ll probably be talking about it again in a year’s time. Just remember this when you’re making your 2013 playoff predictions.

Now here are your morning links: