With the NHL playoffs set to begin on April 17th, it’s time to start looking at which teams deserve a spot in the Stanley Cup 2023 favorites discussion.
There are some obvious teams that have been talked about all season long, but there are also a few others that shouldn’t be overlooked in the postseason.
Stanley Cup 2023 Favorites
The NHL’s playoff format will remain the same in 2023, despite fan and player backlash. That means the top three teams from each division will qualify, along with two wild card teams from each conference.
While many of the top teams in the preseason power rankings are high in the rankings, there are a few teams that have surprised many this season as they continue to fight for a playoff spot. That being said, there are a few teams that look better than the rest and should garner the most attention in the postseason.
The Boston Bruins are the best team in hockey right now.
Boston currently leads the league in wins, points, save percentage and goal differential. Linus Ullmark was a big reason for their success. He is a heavy favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this season, leading all goaltenders in both field goal percentage and goals-against average.
Another reason for the team’s success has been the balanced scoring throughout the lineup. The Bruins currently have nine players who have scored more than 40 points this season. David Pastrnak was the biggest contributor to crime. He surpassed the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career and also leads the Bruins in assists.
With first place already locked up, the Bruins don’t have much to play for the rest of the regular season. What they can do is go after the NHL record for both wins and points in a season. If they were to break one of those records and end the season with the Stanley Cup, they could be considered one of the greatest teams in league history.
Despite having a worse than expected regular season, the Colorado Avalanche are still one of the favorites to make the playoffs. They currently have the second best odds to win the Stanley Cup according to DraftKings at +650.
With only a few games remaining, the Avalanche find themselves in a tight race for the top spot in the Central Division. Although Colorado has had its ups and downs, they seem to have found their rhythm of late, winning eight of their last ten games dating back to March.
Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon have led the team up front throughout the season. Rantanen is on the cusp of 50 goals, while McKinnon is a few points shy of 100. Kale Makar is another big game for a team that is averaging more than a point per game this season.
No matter where the Avalanche finish in the regular season, they will be the favorite to make it out of the Western Conference. It’s hard to bet against the defending champions, especially when they’re all healthy. So while they haven’t shown the same dominance in the regular season as they did last year, they should still be on everyone’s radar come playoffs.
The Carolina Hurricanes had high expectations coming into the season and have done a good job of proving why they deserved it.
Carolina has one of the best defenses in the league, allowing the second fewest goals of any team this season. The Hurricanes don’t have a clear number one goaltender as Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta have both started more than 20 games this season. Andersen has been starting lately, while Raanta has missed most of March with an injury.
On the offensive end, the Hurricanes are led by Sebastian Aho, Martin Nekas and Andrei Svechnikov. All three have surpassed the 20-goal mark this season. Aho currently leads the team in goals and Nechas in points.
To make a deep run in the postseason, Carolina will need significant contributions from its top players. Svechnikov and Nechas combined for just 10 points in 14 playoff games last season. They can’t rely on others to step up if they want to beat the likes of the Rangers, Devils and Bruins.
The Rangers are fresh off a run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. They have already qualified for the play-offs and currently sit third in the Metropolitan Division.
For a team that made the Final Four last season, they will fly under the radar entering this year’s playoffs. With the number of Stanley Cup contenders in the Eastern Conference, it’s easy to overlook the Rangers when considering possible Stanley Cup favorites.
Although Igor Shesterkin’s level has dropped this season, he remains one of the best goalkeepers in the league. He has the potential to steal games for the Rangers and will need to be at his best if they want to knock off the big teams in the East.
Going into the current year, it is likely that New York will play the New Jersey Devils in the first round. This matchup will not disappoint as fans surely remember Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals as one of the best playoff games ever.
After missing the playoffs last season, the Vegas Golden Knights could make a deep run this year.
The Golden Knights have many notable names on their roster. Their core players include Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marcheso, Alex Pietrangelo, Reilly Smith, Phil Kessel and Chandler Stevenson. While they don’t have any superstars, Vegas has a deep team with plenty of players who can contribute on any given night.
The Golden Knights have made the playoffs every year but once since they entered the league in 2018. In their four appearances, Vegas has reached the Conference Finals at least three times. Simply put, this team knows how to win in the postseason.
Vegas will have a hard time getting out of their division, but if past success is anything to go by, they should be in the discussion for the 2023 Stanley Cup favorites.
The last team on this list that deserves a mention is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It’s hard to explain why they should be considered Stanley Cup favorites, especially since they haven’t won a playoff game since 2004. However, Toronto has one of the best rosters in the NHL.
Mitchell Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares all have at least 75 points this season. It’s clear that in the regular season, this is one of the best teams in the league, but now they have to prove it in the playoffs. Players must be tired of talking about first round picks, as are all Leafs fans.
Winning in the first round will be tough, especially against a tough opponent like the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, if they manage to do that, a huge weight will be lifted off their shoulders that could propel them into a deep playoff run. You have to think this will be the last year this core stays together unless they win a series in the playoffs.