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The Eastern Conference playoff picture is set, with our Stanley Cup odds providing up-to-date information as we dive into our Eastern Conference betting preview, dissecting what's to come in the first round.

On Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals secured a playoff berth in the most anti-climactic fashion, scoring an empty-net goal with the contest against the Philadelphia Flyers level at one. The Flyers needed a regulation win to book their playoff ticket, forcing head coach John Tortorella's hand. You can only imagine the level of discontent and fury in Pittsburgh and Detroit. The victory ensured the Caps avoided missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons, which last occurred in 2006 and '07. 

The Florida Panthers leapfrogged the Boston Bruins and won the Atlantic Division thanks to a victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs combined with a woeful Bruins' loss at home to the Ottawa Senators. 

Our best NHL betting sites have the Carolina Hurricanes as the consensus favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final, with the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers hot on their heels. 

Here's our Eastern Conference first-round state of the union. To further inform your betting decisions, take a look at our one-stop shop Stanley Cup playoffs betting guide

Eastern Conference first-round matchups, odds, predictions

  • Washington Capitals (WC2) vs. New York Rangers (1)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (WC1) vs. Florida Panthers (2)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs (A3) vs. Boston Bruins (A2)
  • New York Islanders (M3) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (M2)

Capitals vs. Rangers

DraftKings FanDuel BetMGMbet365Caesars
Rangers -450-375-370-450-500
Capitals +340+290+285+350+375

On paper and according to the NHL odds, Capitals vs. Rangers represents the NHL's most lopsided first-round matchup. The Presidents' Trophy winners finished 23 points above the Capitals in the standings and have a monstrous analytical advantage.

However, the Rangers struggled against the Caps, splitting the season series 2-2. Superficially, that record doesn't look great for the Rangers, who are devoted to improving the narrative enveloping Presidents' Trophy winners. The Boston Bruins' shocking first-round exit in last season's playoffs incited even more negative PR, perpetuating the perceived curse of the Presidents' Trophy winners.

The Metropolitan Division rivals' four meetings occurred before the Rangers became the cohesive, dynamic team they are today. The last of the four encounters occurred on Jan. 14. Up until Jan. 26, the Blueshirts had the ninth-best points percentage (.635). Since Jan. 26, the Rangers boast the NHL's best points percentage (.779), an ominous prospect for the Caps.  

The Rangers are arguably the most well-rounded team in hockey, which Hurricanes and Dallas Stars' fans would vehemently debate. Aside from the Bruins, New York also has the league's best goaltending tandem, with former Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin and three-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick between the pipes. 

What the analytics say

Rangers Capitals
One-goal game win %1st6th 
Scoring-first win %5th 7th 
Goals per game7th28th 
Goals against per game7th 16th
Home points %3rd14th
Away points %5th 20th
Win % leading after one period16th 8th 
Corsi %19th 26th 
Power playT-317th 
Penalty kill 3rd 18th 
Goaltending advantage X

Despite having the worst goal differential (minus-37) of any playoff team by a jumbo-jet-size margin, there are a few promising signs for the Caps. They are seventh in scoring-first win percentage, sixth in one-goal game win percentage, and eighth in win percentage when leading after one period.

Capitals vs. Rangers series prediction  

Barring an upset that would be more surprising than seeing someone stare directly at an eclipse, the Rangers should advance to the second round. There are a couple of series wagers worth considering, including the Rangers to win by at least two games, which you can get at -160 at FanDuel

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With an implied probability of 61.54%, FanDuel offers the best value of our best sports betting apps. That line might shorten, however, so try to be as prompt as possible about locking it in. You have to be precise in the other two appealing markets, which have the Rangers winning the series 4-1 at +290 or 4-2 at +360. 

Best bet: Rangers -1.5 series spread (-160 via FanDuel)

Lightning vs. Panthers

Lightning +145+146+145+145+155

The battle for Sunshine State supremacy pits the No. 2 seed Florida Panthers against the wild-card Tampa Bay Lightning. The Panthers lost the previous two playoff series against the Lightning, the last of which was in four straight games in the second round of the 2021-22 playoffs.

Florida won two of three head-to-head regular-season contests, outscoring Tampa Bay 15-9. After losing nine of 12 games, the Panthers are back on track, having won four in a row. Meanwhile, the Lightning lost three in a row and four of five; not the best way to enter the postseason.

What the analytics say

One-goal game win %7thT-16
Scoring-first win %3rd6th
Goals per gameT-115th
Goals against per game1st 22nd 
Home points %T-109th
Away points %2ndT-14
Win % leading after one period15th T-6
Corsi %2nd17th 
Power play8th 1st
Penalty kill T-65th 
Goaltending advantage X

Lightning vs. Panthers series prediction  

As long as the Panthers stay out of the sin bin, the third time should be the charm against their pesky rivals. Slowing Nikita Kucherov is the other key to ensuring the Lightning hit the links prematurely for the second year running.

No team has the ability to stop Kucherov, who led the league with 1.78 points per game. But the Panthers, with the league's best collective defense, have the personnel to slow him down.

The Panthers should have enough to win it in six games. FanDuel offers +118 for the Panthers by -1.5 games, which implies a probability of 45.87%. A winning $10 wager would yield an $11.80 profit.

Best bet: Panthers -1.5 series spread (+118 via FanDuel)

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Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

Bruins -125-120-120-125-130
Maple Leafs +105+100+100+105+100

"Here we go again," was probably the first thought, along with some expletives, that popped into every Toronto Maple Leafs fan's head when hearing confirmation of playing the Boston Bruins in the first round.

If you don't already know, the Bruins caused the Maple Leafs such traumatic recurring nightmares in the past decade that the organization considered making Pampers a mandatory piece of the uniform.

But if any Maple Leafs iteration can exorcise their Bruins' demons, it's the current one. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and, to a lesser extent, Morgan Rielly were all fresh-faced, youthful, and exuberant the last two times these teams met in the postseason, in 2018 and '19.

Both playoff series ended in devastating Game 7 losses. However, the Leafs' corps is far more experienced and battle-tested five years later despite winning only one playoff series since those fateful defeats.

What the analytics say

BruinsMaple Leafs
One-goal game win %24th T-10 
Scoring-first win %T-1221st
Goals per game14th2nd
Goals against per game6th T-19
Home points %T-10T-18
Away points %4th 3rd
Win % leading after one period22nd12th
Corsi %24th15th
Power play13th7th
Penalty kill T-6T-22
Goaltending advantageX

Maple Leafs vs. Bruins series prediction 

This classic rivalry will likely go the distance for a third consecutive series. The Bruins won all four head-to-head contests in the regular season, but that doesn't tell the entire tale. A three-on-three overtime and a shootout decided the first two games, while the Bruins won each of the last two contests 4-1.

The Maple Leafs don't have history on their side, but that could motivate the Buds as it did against Tampa Bay in the first round last season.

However, the Maple Leafs' comparatively poor defense and inferior goaltending, even though Ilya Samsonov has enjoyed a superb second half of the season, should be enough for the Bruins to prevail.

Even if history doesn't repeat itself, this series should go the distance. Lock in seven games at DraftKings (+200), which implies a 33% probability. With this wager, it doesn't matter which team wins as long as it goes to Game 7. A winning $10 bet would yield a $20 profit.

Best bet: Series to go seven games (+200 via DraftKings)

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Islanders vs. Hurricanes

Islanders +280+275+275+265+300

After being dealt a rubbish hand in the lead-up to the 2023 postseason, the Hurricanes are primed and ready for a shot at redemption. They entered last season's playoffs with more injuries than an overbooked sports medicine clinic and still made it to the Eastern Conference Final.

With a clean bill of health, the Hurricanes kick off the 2024 postseason against the New York Islanders. They split the season series two games apiece, but don't let that deter you. Carolina is probably the NHL's most well-rounded team and has a healthy Frederik Andersen playing at the top of his game. The 'Canes are also substantially better offensively after landing Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov before the trade deadline.

The Hurricanes boast the NHL's best points percentage (.744) since the start of the new year. That sustained brilliance presents a formidable challenge for the Islanders, who have saved their best hockey for the stretch run, winning eight of their last 10 games.

What the analytics say

One-goal game win %13th15th
Scoring-first win %T-423rd
Goals per game8th23rd
Goals against per game4th 18th 
Home points %5th 13th 
Away points %T-6T-16
Win % leading after one periodT-621st
Corsi %1st 25th 
Power play2nd21st
Penalty kill1st 32nd
Goaltending advantageX

Islanders vs. Hurricanes series prediction 

Aside from goaltending, which is by no means a weakness, the Hurricanes are superior in every statistical category. They have more depth and playoff experience and are better on home ice and on the road. One word of caution: The Islanders enter the postseason as the league's hottest team, hotter than the ultimate power couple Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, dubbed Swelce.

Expect the Hurricanes to win the series by at least two games. FanDuel has the Hurricanes ending the series in six games or less at -152. I'm tempted to back the -2.5 games market at +156 but will probably steer clear due to the Islanders' current sizzle. A winning $10 bet on -152 yields a profit of $6.52 and implies a 60.32% probability.

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2024 Stanley Cup playoffs betting previews: Round 1

Here is our collection of first-round preview content to get you ready for the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Here are our best NHL betting sites:

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