Four of the five NHL teams listed as the preseason favorites to win the NHL Eastern Conference in 2023 are still in the mix. Those teams are the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers. The team that has dropped out of the top five is the Florida Panthers. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins, who were outside the top five favorites before the start of the 2023 NHL season, have taken the top spot, thanks to their NHL-leading record of 42-8-5.
Last year, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021, represented the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Western Conference-winning Colorado Avalanche prevented the Lightning from reaching dynasty status in 2022, beating Tampa Bay in six games. Despite falling short in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Lightning are very much in the mix to represent the Eastern Conference in 2023. The team is in sixth place in the East with a record of 35-17-3.
The Panthers are in the playoff mix, but as of now, the team is 28-25-6 and looking like their best chance to make the 2023 NHL Playoffs is through a Wild Card Spot as they trail the Lightning in the standings by more than 10 points.
Before we look at the odds, picks and predictions for the teams who might represent the NHL Eastern Conference in the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals, check out our guide to betting on the 2023 Stanley Cup and our tips for betting on the NHL.
2023 NHL Eastern Conference picks
|To Win 2023 NHL Eastern Conference|
|New York Rangers||+550||+700||+850||+550|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+600||+600||+550||+600|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+750||+600||+650||+750|
|New Jersey Devils||+1000||+900||+750||+900|
|New York Islanders||+3300||+3500||+2800||+3300|
|Detroit Red Wings||+20000||+10000||+15000||+20000|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+200000||+50000||+50000||+200000|
Boston Bruins surge to the top
The Boston Bruins finished the 2022 NHL season with a record of 51-26-5. With 55 games played in the 203 NHL campaign, the Bruins are only nine wins off that mark. Anyone hoping the Bruins were going to fall off after a torrid start to the 2023 NHL season has to be disappointed by now. The team is 6-3-1 in its past 10 games and riding a three-game winning streak into Week 19 of the season.
David Pastrnak, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, is on pace for a career year. The 26-year-old right wing, leads the Eastern Conference in goals with 39 and is third in points in the East with 75. Meanwhile, the Bruins’ starting goalie, Linus Ullmark, leads the NHL in goals against average (1.91), save percentage (.936) and wins (28).
With the way the Bruins are playing, I’d be shocked if the team messed with its chemistry at the trade deadline.
Carolina Hurricanes tops in the Metropolitan again
The Carolina Hurricanes have finished at the top of the Metropolitan Division for the past two years. Barring a surge from the New Jersey Devils or the New York Rangers, Carolina will once again win the division in 2023. The Hurricanes have a 37-10-8 record, which puts them five points ahead of the Devils and seven in front of the Rangers. Carolina trails the Bruins for first place in the Eastern Conference — and the NHL — by seven points.
What makes the Hurricanes a threat is that the team could make a move at the trade deadline because the club has played all but five games of the 2023 NHL season without point-per-game performer Max Pacioretty, who tore his surgically repaired Achilles tendon in January.
Martin Necas leads the Hurricanes in scoring (51 points), while Sebastian Aho has the most goals on the club (23) and Brent Burns leads the team in assists (30). Starting goaltender Antti Raanta is 14-2-3 with a goals against average of 2.44 and a .902 save percentage.
Is this the year for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference in 2023 at 34-14-8. That the team has put up that record with Auston Matthews missing seven games and having starting goaltender Matt Murray out of action since mid-January should give Leafs fans some hope that a healthy Toronto club can deliver down the stretch.
Matthews returned to the lineup on February 15 and he has four points in the two games he has played in since he came back from a knee injury. That’s great news for the team. However, there is still no timeline for when Murray will return to the ice. That is not good news.
William Nylander leads the Leafs in points (65) and goals (31), while Mitch Marner is tops on the team in assists (46).
Best bet to win the NHL Eastern Conference in 2023
Barring an injury or a trade that messes with team chemistry, it’s going to be a chore for any team to knock the Boston Bruins from their perch atop the NHL and the Eastern Conference in 2023.
Pick: Boston Bruins to win the NHL Eastern Conference in 2023.
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