Eight teams enter, only four will survive.  The NHL’s Darwinian process of choosing a champion continues on after a thoroughly thrilling, overtime filled, suspension laden, upset central blood bath of a first round.  Casual fans can’t believe their eyes.  Die hards are diving deep into a binge of their favorite televised drug.  Ratings are through the roof and heart rates are on the rise as each game goes on.  If you haven’t bought into playoff hockey yet then you must be one poor as dirt mothafucka; it doesn’t get any better than this…

So I went 6/8 on first round predictions, no big deal.  Correctly called both Boston and Vancouver upsets like a boss cause I’m the clairvoyant hockey blogger you love to hate to love.  Nailed the total games on half of those wins as well just for good measure.  Only missed on Phoenix and Philly, but even there the teams I wanted to win won.  So despite the fact that I guessed against them, it was still a pleasure watching those squads walk away unscathed.  I’ll spell out the future again for anyone interested in spoilers after the jump.  Let’s breakdown the match ups, puckheads…

#1 New York Rangers – #7 Washington Capitals
2009.  2011.  Both series could have easily been won by the boys in blue.  Up three games to one in the former year, a couple bad overtime bounces away in the latter.  But now this Rangers team has the opportunity to erase those bad memories.  They’re taking on the least dynamic, least threatening, least well coached Caps team that’s seen the ice in a number of years.  The obvious X-Factor here is Bradon Holtby.  After falling victim to hot young Washington goalies in previous post-season meetings, it’s a little eery seeing yet another rookie net minder standing on his head as they face off against my Blueshirts.  Lundqvist needs to be the story in this series as far as goaltending goes, and to get that done he’ll the Gaborik-Richards-Hagelin line to step it up in the O-zone and take this Holtby kid down a peg or two.  Their flow was definitely disrupted by a certain suffered suspension, but now they boys are back together and it’s time to start lighting the lamp again.  If they keep up this lull in offensive output, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Line America: Ice Police overtake the foreigner crew’s place in Tortorella’s pecking order.  Can Ovechkin and Hunter co-exist when they’re both on the bench so much?  Can the Rangers out-suck the opposing team’s energy after the Capitals proved so capable of doing just that against the Bruins?  We shall see, starting at 3, today on NBC.  Oh jeez, so nervous I’m writing in rhymes…
Prediction – I said it before and I’ll say it again (but change the specifics slightly based on the play of that Holtby kid)… Rangers prevail in 6.

#5 Philadelphia Flyers – #6 New Jersey Devils
Another moist matchup between Atlantic Division rivals, once again on a mission to prove that it’s the most exciting and most competitive division in all of hockey.  I have a feeling this one will be just as gut wrenchingly awesome as the first such series we were treated to, though with slightly different results.  Can the Flyers rebound from the emotional high of fucking over Pittsburgh to take on an equally dynamic opponent in the Devils?  Can Philly afford their current in-the-crease issues when the goat of all goalies is suiting up in the opposite corner?  It obviously won’t be easy for New Jersey to win this one though.  Can they step up their game after being pushed to the brink by a less talented Panthers team?  Will they be able to hold on to late leads when their new opponents seem so adept at coming from behind?  I think if the Devils can maintain dominance with their special teams and keep the new world’s greatest player Claude Giroux from preforming at his best, then they have a chance of pulling out a slight upset and moving on to the final four.
Predicition – Just going with my ever-expanding gut here and could very easily be wrong on this one, but Devils in 7.  

#2 St. Louis Blues – #8 Los Angeles Kings
What’s the over/under on total goals for this series, like 7?  Stingy doesn’t even begin to describe how low scoring these games are going to be.  To truly capture it, I’d have to dig up some old anti-Semitic jokes and I’d rather just keep this post as racist-free as possible, ok Bruins fans?  Quick is certainly the key for the Kings.  This kid can win 1-0 games like he’s the goddamn Tim Howard of the NHL.  Can the St. Louis offense capitalize on their chances and dig LA into a two-game hole?  Can Hollywood handle yet another top seed as they look to make an improbable cup run?  I feel like overtime’s going to play a big role in this, and whoever winds up winning their sudden death home games is going to be that much better off in the long run.  
Prediction – Can anybody stop Ken Hitchcock and the new cup favorites?  Not in this conference, I think… St. Louis in 6.

#3 Phoenix Coyotes – #4 Nashville Predators
Talk about a toss up.  If last night’s contentious first game couldn’t eliminate that old east coast bias bug from fansand the media then I don’t know what will.  They may not be the most traditional of hockey hotbeds, but you can’t fault the market when the on-ice product is all that matters.  Both the Coyotes and Predators have turned lemons into hockey teams, and credit is obviously due to misters Trotz and Tippett a thousand times over.  I have a feeling this series will come down to whoever can steal wins on the road.  After Phoenix’s first ever second round (overtime) victory last night, can Nashville head back home having split the first two in Arizona?  Can the Coyotes defuse a rowdy Predator crowd when it’s time to leave their precious white-out?  Phoenix’s up 1-0 but there’s plenty left to play here…
Prediction – I see Rinne & Co. getting it done with huge helping effort from Nashville’s lesser known forwards.  Predators in 7.   

So here we go, hockey fans.  Starting from scratch with that same goal of the Stanley Cup in mind.  It’s anybody’s game every time they hit the ice, and despite what those moronic ball-sports fans like KFC have to say about it making our regular season irrelevant, that’s why we love it.  So saddle up and strap in because the ride’ll be bumpy and it’s full of twists and turns.  Good luck, godspeed, and LET’S GO RANGERS!  @Osgood_StoolNYC