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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Eastern Conference Breakdown

Hunter Skoczylas breaks down and offers betting insight on all eight NHL Eastern Conference playoff teams.

With the 2022-23 NHL regular season wrapping up on Friday, April 14, warm weather makes a return as well as the Stanley Cup playoffs. The race for the cup will be intense as usual with plenty of deep, talented squads in each conference poised to claim the trophy by the end of the postseason.

But which Eastern Conference squad has what it takes to become the next Stanley Cup Champions?

The Boston Bruins were by far the most dominant team in the league this season but will they fall victim to the President’s Trophy curse? Do the young and upcoming New Jersey Devils have enough experience to make it to the end?

Read below for a breakdown of every Eastern Conference playoff team’s potential success this postseason, including an “X-Factor” for each team that could be the reason they’re hoisting the cup by the end.

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DraftKings Sportsbook Eastern Conference Preview

Boston Bruins

It’s not an exaggeration to say the season this Boston Bruins squad has put together has been truly historical and nothing but dominant — being the fastest team to reach 50 wins and the first to reach 63 in a single season. Boston is the best defensive and second-best offensive team in the league. Combine with that elite goaltending all season, and you’re looking at the 2023 Stanley Cup Champions — barring the President’s Trophy curse, of course, which is arguably the only thing that could stop the Bruins this postseason.

X-Factor: Goaltending

Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes won the Metropolitan Division and finished with the second most points in the league thanks to their young and talented core that is fast, deep and smart with the puck — resulting in a balanced offense and defensive attack. The Hurricanes’ goaltenders have been impressive, too, allowing the second-fewest goals against this season. Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta could very easily steal a few of those tightly-contested games but Carolina’s path to the finals features some high-active offenses.

X-Factor: Depth

New Jersey Devils

Despite being one of the youngest teams in the league, the New Jersey Devils finished second in the Metropolitan Division and acquired Timo Meier near the trade deadline, further boosting the quality of the team’s depth. Jack Hughes and the rest of the young players will be huge factors throughout the postseason but the lack of experience could end up hindering a run. Devils head coach Lindy Ruff has plenty of playoff experience and although he hasn’t won a cup, the squad in front of him surely has the potential to do it.

X-Factor: Coaching and youth

Toronto Maple Leafs

We all know how it goes with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs but they will be forever dangerous as long as Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner are commanding the offensive attack. Toronto posted the sixth-highest goal differential and had four skaters score at least 30 goals on the year — something it’ll need to carry over into the postseason to top opposing conference teams. The defense and goaltending have been dependable but it comes down to whether or not it can last a full seven-game series against tough opponents.

X-Factor: Offensive attack

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers excel in all areas of the game and were aggressive enough during the trade deadline to acquire Patrick Kane, who has the playoff experience to help boost the morale in the locker room to advance all the way. There have been some consistency issues in regard to putting away games but let’s not forget how well Igor Shesterkin played last postseason. If he plays similarly and the Rangers take full advantage of their offensive attack, they will be a tough team to top this postseason.

X-Factor: Playoff Patrick Kane and goaltending

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning have appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals for three consecutive seasons now and nearly completed the coveted three-peat before falling to the Colorado Avalanche last year. Still, they finished third in the Atlantic Division and there’s no denying they have a ton of talent that has performed above average at all levels of the ice. The Bolts are built for playoff hockey and will have one of the best goaltenders in the league in Andrei Vasilevskiy standing tall in net every night — yeah, don't sleep on them quite yet, even after their struggles toward the end of the season.

X-Factor: Experience

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers have taken a step back in terms of success compared to recent years but still finished in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, just four points behind the Bolts. Despite being the seventh seed, the Panthers finished the season very strong, winning six of their final seven games — primarily because of Matthew Tkachuk’s excellence, who finished with five goals and six assists during that span. Tkachuk will need to be extra active in the offensive zone, especially if Florida’s goaltending continues to be subpar, allowing 3.3 goals per game.

X-Factor: Matthew Tkachuk

New York Islanders

The New York Islanders could end up being a great playoff story but it doesn’t help that they’re the eighth seed and are forced to face the Bruins in the first round. The Islanders finished fourth in the Metropolitan Division, an effort that was led by Ilya Sorokin — one of the league’s most impressive goaltenders this season. As a team, the Islanders allowed the fifth-most high-danger chances but also fifth-fewest goals this season so Sorokin’s level of play will have a direct effect on their postseason success. Throughout the first series last year, Sorokin finished with a .922 save percentage and allowed just 18 goals in seven games.

X-Factor: Goaltending

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Odds

BOS Bruins +350

TOR Maple Leafs +900

CAR Hurricanes +1100

NY Rangers +1200

NJ Devils +1200

TB Lightning +1400

FLA Panthers +3500

NY Islanders +5000

Favorite Pick

Tampa Bay Lightning +1400

Although I think the Bruins have barely any weaknesses and are essentially a lock to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, the value for the Bolts at +1400 was too intriguing to pass up. Many will look into Tampa Bay’s rough finish to the season, finishing with an 18-17-5 record across its final 40 games but this team is built for playoff hockey. They’ve made it three straight seasons and nearly completed the three-peat. Elite goaltending plus a high supply of goal scorers on every line will equal success for Tampa Bay.

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All odds are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and are subject to change.

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is huntersk) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.