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NHL Playoff Picture: Boston Bruins lead the way

The 2022/23 NHL regular season is nearing its dramatic climax, and the race for the Playoffs is truly heating up. 

The Playoffs are scheduled to begin on the week commencing 17th April and with regular season games running out, we take a look at who is in and who is out, and what match ups we can already expect. 

Bruins first to clinch 

The Boston Bruins (51-11-5) became the first team to clinch a spot in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs and their record pace has them on their way to winning the Atlantic Division and Presidents' Trophy, which will earn them home ice advantage throughout the Playoffs. 

Boston have lost just three times in regulation time at TD Garden this season (27-3-3) and with that home ice advantage all but guaranteed, they are 33/20 to win the Eastern Conference and 10/3 to be crowned Stanley Cup Champions for the first time since 2011. 

Leafs and Lightning set to meet again 

Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning have a hold on the other two automatic Playoff positions from the Atlantic Division and are set to meet each other in the first round for a second consecutive season. 

The Leafs are currently three points ahead of the Lightning and if they finish above them will gain home ice advantage, but they had that last season in the deciding Game 7, which they lost 2-1. 

Toronto led the series 3-2 and had two chances to win a first Playoff round since 2004, but the Lightning turned it around and went on to make a third consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance. 

The Lightning are 17/2 to win the Eastern Conference for a fourth time in a row and 16/1 to reclaim the Stanley Cup, which they lost to Colorado Avalanche last season after winning it back-to-back in 2020 and 2021. 

If the Leafs can overcome their first-round hoodoo, they are 5/1 to win the Eastern Conference and 9/1 to end their record 55-year wait for a Stanley Cup.

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Metro lead up for grabs 

Things are less set in the East's Metropolitan Division, with the Carolina Hurricanes just one point ahead of the New Jersey Devils for first place. 

The Hurricanes, 10/21 to win the division, have a game in hand but recently suffered a major blow losing All-Star Andrei Svechnikov (23 goals, 32 assists) for the season due to injury. 

New Jersey haven't made the Playoffs for four seasons, but led by a young core of high draft picks, have been one of the major surprise stories of the season and are 8/5 to win the division. 

Whoever loses the battle between will all but certainly have to play a well-stacked New York Rangers side, who reached the Eastern Conference Final last season in the first round. 

Wild Card battle 

With the Bruins so far ahead of the Hurricanes and Devils in the overall standings, the winner of the Metro will play the first Wild Card from the Eastern Conference, currently Pittsburgh Penguins, and Boston will get the second Wild Card, presently New York Islanders. 

Three points outside of the Wild Card spots, but with two games in hand, Florida Panthers are the most likely of the East's other teams to grab a Wild Card position and they are 1/1 to do that.  

The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres, in particular, will need to go on a real run in the final games if they are to have any chance of stealing a Wild Card spot. 

West picture unclear 

The Playoff picture is less clear in the West's Central and Pacific Division, with both titles still up for grabs and the third-place team in each division far from set in stone. 

Vegas Golden Knights top the Pacific, and are 11/10 to finish first ahead of Los Angeles Kings, who are 9/5

Dallas Stars hold top spot in the Central Division and are 6/4 to win it, but need to hold off the in-form Minnesota Wild (31/10 to finish first) and reigning Stanley Cup Champions, 5/4 Colorado Avalanche.  

All five are well set to be in the Playoffs one way or another and will most likely be joined by, and matched up against Edmonton Oilers and Seattle Kraken, plus one of Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames or Nashville Predators. 

The Jets hold a three-point lead over the Flames and four-point advantage over the Predators for the second Wild Card spot from the Western Conference which they are 4/9 to keep hold of and reach the Playoffs. 

The Western Conference is 27/20 to have the 2022/23 Stanley Cup winner with 6/1 Colorado and 12/1 Vegas most fancied. 

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