After a sprint of a regular season, the Stanley Cup Playoffs kick off Tuesday night. On Monday, we broke down the Western Conference's opening-round series. Today, it's the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs. New York Islanders (8) 

How They Got Here
The Penguins had a remarkably consistent season, never losing more than two in a row and going a perfect 15-0-0 during March. Their season is all the more impressive considering they lost reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin for a stretch because of an injury and have been without the injured Sidney Crosby since March 30. The Islanders -- a team expected by many to finish toward the bottom of the conference standings -- went on a nice run (11-1-2) in late March and early April to help secure their first playoff bid since 2007. They were one of four teams battling for the final three spots, but stumbled to the eighth seed in the final week (0-1-2).

Rivalry Snapshot
This is one of three Eastern Conference series to pit division rivals against each other. Pittsburgh isn't necessarily the Islanders' biggest rival (or vice versa), but there's some history here. They haven't met in the playoffs since David Volek's one-timer eliminated the two-time defending champion Penguins in the 1993 Eastern Conference Semis. But more recently, the teams famously combined for 346 penalty minutes and 10 ejections during a 2011 game. (In case you'd forgotten, that's the game that led Mario Lemieux to write, "It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.") That game came nine days after another famous incident, when former Penguins goalie Brent Johnson dropped his Islander counterpart, Rick DiPietro, with a single punch. 

Storyline You'll Get Sick of by Game 2
The state of Sidney Crosby's health (which narrowly beats out Jarome Iginla's quest for his first Cup). 

Prediction
After an ugly first-round exit last season, the Penguins took no chances, adding Iginla, Brendan Morrow and Doug Murray before the trade deadline. But Crosby got hurt shortly thereafter, and though the Pens cruised to the top seed, we've barely gotten to see their roster as GM Ray Shero intended it. Crosby is practicing, and though the timetable for his return is unknown, the Penguins are hoping he picks up where he left off. (He'd been having such an incredible year that he remained atop the league's scoring leaderboard until last week, despite not appearing in a game since March 30.) The Islanders, meanwhile, are one of the great stories in the playoffs, finally giving their fans a reason to get excited. Nassau Coliseum will be a madhouse during this series, particularly if the Islanders can steal one of the first two games. A lot depends on Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins goaltender who was terrible in the playoffs last year. The Islanders are capable of scoring goals -- they finished seventh in the league as a team, and John Tavares was third individually -- and so if Fleury isn't sharp, the Islanders could pick up a game or two in this series. Ultimately, though, the Penguins are too deep, and too capable of generating a ton of offense on their own: They averaged a league-best 3.38 goals per game in 2013. Penguins in 6. 

Montreal Canadiens (2) vs. Ottawa Senators (7)

How They Got Here
Montreal fought Boston for the Northeast Division crown until the very end, finally capturing the No. 2 seed when the Bruins failed to win their final game of the season on Sunday. Ottawa, against all odds, kept picking up points despite losing Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson for a significant amount of time. (Like the Islanders, they were in that group of four teams battling for the final three spots; they earned two out of a possible four points on the final weekend, which gave them the No. 7 seed.) 

Rivalry Snapshot
On the one hand, this matchup is a little disappointing: If Boston has finished second and bumped Montreal to fourth, the Habs would have faced Toronto in the first round in a matchup of both Canadian Original Six teams. On the other hand, it's a matchup of two surprising Canadian teams, which is pretty cool, even if these franchises have no postseason history against each other to speak of. (Series against the original Ottawa Senators don't count as far as I'm concerned.) 

Storyline You'll Be Sick of by Game 2
It really is a miracle that reigning Norris winner Erik Karlsson is playing again so soon after his February Achilles injury -- he's playing big minutes, too -- but one imagines there will be no limit to how often it'll be referenced in this series. 

Prediction
With all due respect to Kyle Turris and Sergei Gonchar and everyone else in Ottawa who didn't miss significant time with an injury, it's a little hard to believe the Senators are where they are. But they've been earning points, and now have Karlsson back for the playoffs. This is two years in a row now that the Sens find themselves in a somewhat unlikely playoff spot. Last year, they gave the No. 1 seed Rangers a hell of a fight and came up just short. But this year, they might just pull off the upset. It helps that the Canadiens didn't have a particularly strong final two weeks: They lost five of their last eight games, and Carey Price, who'd been having such a good season, has been struggling. (His April save percentage was just .876.) The Habs have a lot of young talent, but the conditions are right for an upset. Senators in 6.

Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Rangers (6) 

How They Got Here
These teams followed somewhat similar paths: The Rangers played two-plus months of mediocre hockey before hitting their stride following the trade deadline. The Capitals, meanwhile, got off to an even worse start (they won just two of their first 11 games), but ended on an even hotter note (they lost just twice in their final 13 games). Neither team clinched its playoff berth until the final week of the season, and despite the difference in seeds, Washington finished with just one more point than the Rangers. 

Rivalry Snapshot
This might be the most intriguing of all the first-round matchups: This is the fourth postseason meeting between these teams in the past five seasons, and the previous series have been doozies. Two of them went seven games, and the other (a five-game Caps victory in 2011) was closer than it sounds. Last year's series was especially thrilling, with Game 3 lasting into a third overtime before Marian Gaborik's game-winner, and the Rangers stealing Game 5 after scoring a power-play goal late in regulation to tie the score and another in overtime to win. The teams alternated wins and losses in that series, and the final six games were each decided by one goal. 

Storyline You'll Get Sick of by Game 2
The resurgence late in the season of Brad Richards, who, as you'll be told repeatedly, has a reputation as a big-game player who thrives in the postseason. 

Prediction
The Rangers should feel good about themselves heading into the playoffs: They're a deeper team than they were six weeks ago, with Marian Gaborik out and Derick Brassard, John Moore, Mats Zuccarello and the currently injured Ryane Clowe now in the mix. They've been scoring more lately, though their success over the past couple of weeks has come during a stretch in which they've played a soft schedule. Richards is putting up points, Rick Nash continues to be everything the Rangers expected and most important, Henrik Lundqvist has been sharp. But the Capitals finished the season even stronger, which counters any momentum the Rangers may have, and Alex Ovechkin looks like the Alex Ovechkin of old. He won this year's Rocket Richard Trophy, and was the only player in the league to reach the 30-goal mark during the shortened regular season. It's vital that the Rangers -- the least penalized team in the league -- stay out of the box, and not give the Caps' top-rated power play too many opportunities. The Rangers' penalty kill, which has long been a strength, is decidedly middle-of-the pack-this year. But that still might not be enough to slow down the Caps. Capitals in 7.

Boston Bruins (4) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (5)

How They Got Here
At the trade deadline, when the Bruins came close to landing Jarome Iginla, it looked like Pittsburgh and Boston were engaging in something of an arms race -- each team trying to improve its roster as they jockeyed for position at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Pittsburgh, we now know, was aggressive at the deadline, and would go on to run away with the points race in the East. Boston -- who'd add Jaromir Jagr at the deadline --fought with Montreal for the division title, and the Bruins' poor play down the stretch allowed Montreal to take the division crown. The Leafs, meanwhile, were pretty steady this year, as they returned to the postseason for the first time since before the lockout of 2004-05. 

Rivalry Snapshot
A pair of Original Six teams, though from a rivalry standpoint, it would have been a bigger deal for either team if Montreal was involved. They're division rivals, though it's been more than 30 years since they've met in the postseason

Storyline You'll Be Sick of by Game 2
How long it's been since Toronto last made the playoffs. (My favorite stat: Five players from Toronto's last playoff team are currently in the Hall of Fame, compared to just four that are still active in the NHL.) 

Prediction
Despite their ugly finish to the season, the Bruins have a lot going for them: offensive threats like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, a defensive corps led by the all-world Zdeno Chara, and goalie Tuukka Rask, who's among the league leaders in goals against average and save percentage. The Bruins have loads of postseason experience, and they even added a veteran, Jagr, to play a supporting role. As for Toronto, they earned their first playoff berth since 2004: They led the league in blocked shots this year, and can count on scorers like Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri. And for all the talk of a potential Roberto Luongo trade last offseason, goaltending hasn't been a concern for Toronto. That said, Boston has enough talent and experience to challenge Pittsburgh for the Eastern Conference crown. Bruins in 6.

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Joe DeLessio is a senior producer at New York Magazine's website, nymag.com. Follow him on Twitter @joedelessio.