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NHL Playoff Update: Carolina new favourites to win it all

Of the four teams remaining in the NHL Playoffs, none are rated at higher odds than +325 to go on and win the Stanley Cup, with Carolina Hurricanes the marginal favourites.

The NHL Playoffs have reached the Conference Finals stage, which means there are four teams that remain in the running to win this year’s Stanley Cup. 

The four teams – the Carolina Hurricanes, Las Vegas Golden Knights, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers – each hold similar futures odds to lift the Cup, but who has the edge?

Hurricanes impress against Devils

The Carolina Hurricanes currently hold the shortest odds to win the 2023 Stanley Cup at +230

Their impressive playoff performances up to this point would be the logical reasoning behind it, particularly their recent 4-1 series victory over the New Jersey Devils

The Hurricanes have lost just three games throughout the playoffs, and – despite injuries to key contributors such as Andrei Svechnikov – they’re playing better than they have all season. 

Many experts have also pointed to the Hurricanes’ playing style as a reason for them to be favored. 

The Hurricanes are a highly aggressive team, who attack the opponent from the first to the last second. 

With more speed than many of their opponents, they’ve forced their rivals to play up to their pace, which has led to costly mistakes and Hurricane victories. 

This was evident in their second-round series against the New Jersey Devils, in which the Hurricanes were visibly the better team. 

Through the first two games, the Hurricanes outscored the Devils by an 11-2 margin; though New Jersey took Game 3, the 2-0 series start for Carolina was too much for them to overcome. 

The series culminated in an overtime victory in which Jesper Fast scored decisively, sending the Hurricanes through to the Conference Finals. 

With the Hurricanes in top form, it’s not a surprise to see them as favorites to win the Stanley Cup. 

There may still be two series to play, but if the Hurricanes can maintain their momentum and keep opponents playing on their terms, they could be in store for their first Stanley Cup victory in over 15 years.

Golden Knights continue expansion magic

Since their first season in 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights have been a problem for the other teams in the league. 

In just six seasons, the Knights have captured three division championships and a conference championship; this season, they look like they may be the team to beat in the latter portion of the NHL Playoffs. 

The Knights – who finished first in the Western Conference – most recently defeated the Edmonton Oilers, who many considered to be one of the Golden Knights’ toughest obstacles en route to a first Stanley Cup success. 

With a slew of upsets elsewhere in the playoffs, the Knights’ defeat of the Oilers may be looked at as the turning point for the team in retrospect. 

However, they haven’t got this far based on luck. They are one of the deepest offensive teams in hockey, with seven players tallying at least eight points in the playoffs. 

They’ve been led largely by Jack Eichel (14 points) and Mark Stone (12 points) - +650 and +1000 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, respectively, though they have offensive threats throughout their lines. 

One question mark heading into the Conference Finals is if Knights’ goalie Adin Hill can continue the solid play he displayed in Games 5 and 6 against the Oilers. 

Through five career playoff appearances, Hill has allowed nine total goals. He has posted two shutouts in that time, though one was in a partial appearance where he saw just four shots against. 

If Hill can be a wall for the Knights, it will firm up their weakest link and provide their explosive offense and physical defense with a real chance to cash in on their +250 odds to win the Stanley Cup.

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Stars sneak through the Kraken

The Dallas Stars currently hold the third-shortest odds to win the Stanley Cup at +280, and that may prove to be a value to bettors. 

In the second round, the Stars edged past the Seattle Kraken in a 4-3 series victory; the deciding Game 7 was a hard-fought 2-1 win. 

However, the Stars have been more inconsistent than the Golden Knights and Hurricanes, as evidenced by their Game 6 loss to the Kraken. 

Still, the Stars have shown the ability to recover after a letdown, which is crucial in the playoffs. After their disappointing Game 6 loss to Seattle, Dallas kicked into high gear for the decider. 

Their stout defense kept Seattle’s forwards from breaking through a single time before the very end of the game, allowing goalie Jake Oettinger to make just 22 saves in the win. 

The Stars don’t have the same offensive firepower as Vegas or Carolina; however, they are a defensive-minded team, and that could take them a long way in the playoffs, providing they continue to get some timely scoring. 

With their defense likely to show up every night, it’s been down to two of their primary goal-scorers to be the difference-makers: Roope Hintz and Wyatt Johnston. 

Both Hintz and Johnston have been enormously important to the Stars’ success in the playoffs thus far. Hintz has scored nine goals this postseason, providing an effective floor for the Stars’ offense. Johnston has also been key as he has been most effective when Dallas have needed offense the most. 

In both of their last two series, the 20-year-old Johnston has almost single-handedly helped the Stars’ advance with series-clinching scores. 

If the Stars can continue to play superb defense while receiving clutch scoring from Hintz and Johnston, they may be en route to their first Stanley Cup win in over two decades.

Panthers hunting first ever Cup

The Florida Panthers have made it this far in the playoffs based largely on their offense, which was one of the best in the NHL all season. 

While their +325 futures odds to win the Cup are the longest of any remaining team, their offense will allow them to stay in games that maybe other teams could not. 

Beyond their goal-scoring abilities, the Panthers boast depth in spades. The top of their roster – including Matthew Tkachuk (sixth in the NHL with 109 points in the regular season and +700 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy) – is one of the best cores in the NHL, and they’ve been clicking on all cylinders since their playoff push at the end of the season. 

Florida won six of their final eight regular season games to sneak into the playoffs and followed that up by taking down the Boston Bruins, who set the NHL record for wins and points in a regular season. 

Clearly, Florida is getting hot at the right time, and they had no issues dispatching the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round. 

With an explosive offense, excellent depth and control over the puck, it could be worth backing the Panthers, as they carry the longest odds of the remaining teams to win the Cup. 

In hindsight, those odds may look like an overthinking of the situation, if the Panthers can continue to play at the level they have since the end of March.

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