With just under 50 games played in the NHL season, it won’t be long before the All-Star break and the NHL Trade Deadline. Contenders begin an arms race. As it stands, the NHL betting odds favor the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche to come out of their respective conferences in June. But at the moment, each conference’s standings leave little breathing room in terms of seeding.
Here’s a look at the NHL’s top and bottom-five current teams. Let’s check the latest NHL news, stats, injury reports, and NHL lines for NHL Conference Races. We’ve got plenty of NHL picks for you to consider.
Boston Bruins Lead the Elite
With 80 points in 47 games, the Bruins lead the Eastern Conference by a significant margin – 14 points ahead of second-place Carolina. Boston’s edge comes in its near-invincibility at home. It took 15 games for Boston to lose at home and 23 to lose in regulation at TD Garden. Boston is +300 to come out of the East and return to the Stanley Cup Finals.
It’s almost a foregone conclusion for Boston to finish atop the East. It would take a massive meltdown for the Bruins to finish anywhere but first. With its current record and a whopping +83 goal differential, Boston may finish with the best record in the NHL since Detroit in 1995-96.
The Hurricanes are not too far behind even if they don’t catch Boston as the No. 1 seed. Carolina is second to Boston on the online sports betting odds at +500. This team has yet to reach the Finals since it won it all in 2006.
Toronto (+550), Tampa Bay (+750) and New Jersey (+750) round out the top five of the East’s elite. The Maple Leafs have the easiest schedule remaining while Tampa Bay has the hardest. Toronto is tied with Carolina and New Jersey in points (66), and Tampa Bay will have to continue its hot streak – 10 straight home wins – to secure home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
But as it is, Toronto and Tampa Bay could meet in the first round again while New Jersey will face the New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh, Washington Defend Wild Card Spots
How long will the “old guard” secure their playoff spots? With 56 points each, Pittsburgh and Washington are the East’s two wild card teams. Breathing down their necks is Buffalo with 53 points, Florida with 52 and the New York Islanders with 51.
Of these teams, the Penguins have the best odds to win the East at 10-1. That might be a tough bet online as Pittsburgh has not won a playoff round since 2018. Florida, last season’s Presidents’ Trophy winner, is at 14-1. The Panthers’ offseason moves have not paid dividends as the team is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2019.
Colorado Favored Despite Injury-Riddled Season
At +275, the Avalanche are expected to return to the Stanley Cup Finals. Never mind that Colorado, partly due to constant injuries, sits sixth in the West if we go by points percentage. The return of Nathan MacKinnon has given this team a boost lately as Colorado has won six straight and has the third-easiest remaining schedule.
Next in the odds comes an Avalanche rival: the Vegas Golden Knights at +400. Vegas knows a thing or two about injuries slowing a team down as it missed last season’s playoffs because of them. But this season, Vegas is resurgent and should secure home-ice advantage in the first round.
Many “sharps” pegged Seattle as a surprise team last season. But they were a year too early as the Kraken lead the Pacific Division (+200 to win it) in point percentage. Seattle has also been the best road team in the West with a 16-5-2 record. And notably, the team has the easiest strength of schedule moving forward. The Kraken are 20-1 to make the Finals.
The #Kraken are:
-The first team to shut out the Boston Bruins this season (#1 team in @NHL)
– The first team to beat the Bruins in regulation in Boston
-Riding a 7 game win streak (6 on the road) and their 2nd 7 game streak this season.
– GOOD. Real good.
— Alyssa Charlston (@Alyssacharlston) January 13, 2023
Pretenders or Contenders?
Outside of Colorado and Vegas, a handful of Western teams are re-asserting themselves as powers. Dallas (+500) and the Canadian trio of Calgary (+800), Winnipeg (+1000) and Edmonton (+1000) are promising, albeit flawed, contenders. Same can be said for Minnesota (+1000).
Dallas and Winnipeg are neck-and-neck for the top spot in the Central Division. While Edmonton, Calgary, and Minnesota are among the teams fighting for a wild card. It’s also possible for the Oilers or Flames to knock the Los Angeles Kings out of a top-three slot in the Pacific Division.
Connor McDavid is scoring at a pace not seen since Mario Lemieux. He has Edmonton on a six-game winning streak while Calgary has the second-easiest remaining schedule.