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NHL Eastern Conference Playoff preview: Boston the team to beat

The Eastern Conference produced the top four teams in the NHL regular season standings - Boston, Carolina, New Jersey, and Toronto.

The record-setting Boston Bruins are the +175 favourite to win the Eastern Conference and they are +300 to end their magical season as Stanley Cup champions for the first time since 2011.

Bruins aim for perfect season 

The Bruins finished the NHL regular season with the most wins (65) and points (135) of any team in history. 

As the Presidents' Trophy winners, they will enjoy home ice advantage throughout the post-season where they are an astonishing 34-4-3 this season. 

From top to bottom, Boston are stacked with talent and hit the playoffs on the back of a 18-4-0 run. With 61 goals, David Pastrnak ended the season second only to Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (64). 

The Bruins have incredible depth at all positions, finished the regular season with a +128 goal-differential and coach Jim Montgomery has their special teams working well too. The question remains, can anybody stop them?

Panthers have first shot at Bruins

The Florida Panthers will have the first shot at it, and after winning a Wild Card spot are +280 to cause the major upset against the Bruins. 

Florida won the Presidents' Trophy last season but got swept by Tampa Bay Lightning at the second-round stage of the postseason. 

They responded by making a blockbuster trade to bring in rugged forward Matthew Tkachuk who is built for the playoffs and will better help the Panthers go up against a heavyweight in the East. 

The Panthers have never won the Stanley Cup but they did win the Eastern Conference in 1996 and they are +2000 to do so again.

Hurricanes stay strong 

The Carolina Hurricanes suffered a major blow to their +550 chances of winning the Eastern Conference with injuries to productive forwards Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov. 

However, even without them in the lineup, Rod Brind'Amour's well-structured side won the Metropolitan Division and head into the postseason as a strong +1000 candidate to win the Stanley Cup.

Islanders remain hopeful 

The Islanders will meet Hurricanes in the first round, and despite missing the playoffs completely last season can take confidence from two consecutive Eastern Conference Final appearances before that. 

A low scoring affair against Carolina is likely and New York will fancy their +180 chances of an upset due to having one of the world's best goalies, Ilya Sorokin in net.

Leafs out to end drought 

The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't won a playoff series since 2004 and their 55-year Stanley Cup drought is the longest on record. 

They will again come up against Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs and after a strong 50-21-11 season are -175 to finally get the monkey of a series win off their back. 

If they were to do that, the Leafs are +450 to go on to win the Eastern Conference and +800 to finally lift the Stanley Cup for a 14th time, the most of any team in this season's playoffs.

Lightning motivated to take back title 

After having their three-peat dream ended by Colorado Avalanche in last season's Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning immediately vowed to bounce back. 

The regular season saw many ups and downs, but very few would want to count them out at the most important time of year. 

The Lightning are +1100 to win the Eastern Conference and make a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance and +2000 to regain the championship from Colorado.

Devils rise to contention 

The New Jersey Devils' rise to contention is one of the stories of the 2022/23 NHL season. After failing to make the postseason for four seasons and losing their first two games of the campaign, there were calls for coach Lindy Ruff to be fired. 

Those voices were quickly silenced as the Devils recorded a 112-point season (52-22-8), which was third in the overall standings. 

New Jersey's reward for making the postseason is a Hudson River battle with rivals New York Rangers. 

The Devils are -130 to progress past the Rangers and +550 to win the Eastern title, something they wouldn't have thought possible with such a young core to start the season.

Rangers load up 

The New York Rangers haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1994, but after making the Eastern Conference Final last season decided to go all in ahead of the trade deadline by acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko from St. Louis Blues and Patrick Kane from Chicago Blackhawks. 

Tarasenko won the Cup with the Blues in 2018 while Kane is a three-time champion with the Blackhawks. 

The addition of the two makes the Rangers +750 to go a step further and win the Eastern Conference and +1400 to be crowned Stanley Cup Champions for a fifth time.

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