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What does the NHL playoff picture look like in the Eastern Conference?

We break down the standings and how things might shake out in the Eastern Conference.

NHL: Winter Classic-Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL season flipped over into the 2023 calendar year and nearly at the halfway point, it’s time to look at the Stanley Cup Playoff picture. Which teams appear to be near locks and which are on the outside looking in.

NHL playoff picture

Note: Standings are updated as of Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. Boston Bruins: 62 points
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs: 52 points
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning: 47 points

Metropolitan Division

  1. Carolina Hurricanes: 56 points
  2. New Jersey Devils: 49 points
  3. Washington Capitals: 47 points

Wild Card

  1. New York Rangers: 46 points
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 44 points
  3. New York Islanders: 44 points
  4. Detroit Red Wings: 39 points
  5. Buffalo Sabres: 38 points

The Bruins (29-4-4) are on a torrid pace to approach the NHL record of 62 wins by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston went 7-0-3 in December against the teams that are considered likely to make the playoffs. That includes a 3-0-1 record against the Western Conference favorites Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights. Boston is a strong favorite to win the Atlantic at -425 on DraftKings Sportsbook. With the Lightning (+1200 to win Atlantic) five back of the Maple Leafs (+380) and eight points clear of the Detroit Red Wings it feels like the top three in the Atlantic is well-defined. Keep an eye on the Florida Panthers (36 points), who have struggled, but are more than capable of going on a hot stretch.

The Devils have went in the tank lately, 2-6-2 in their past 10 and have seen their odds drop to +600 to win the Metropolitan. That has allowed the Hurricanes to gain some distance over the pack in division. Carolina is now -320 to win the division. The Hurricanes hasn’t just sat idly either, they on a 11-game win streak and could be considered the hottest team in the NHL. The pack is five teams (Devils, Capitals, Rangers, Penguins and Islanders) separated by five points and battling for four playoff spots. Someone’s going to get left out. Washington (+2500) emerged in this group by going 8-1-1 in its past 10. It’ll be worth watching to see if the Capitals can keep up the pace.