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The end of the National Hockey League 2022-23 regular season is finally here, which can mean only one thing: two months of playoff hockey to determine which team is going to win the Stanley Cup.

After three years of Eastern Conference dominance from the Tampa Bay Lightning, which has seen the Florida club win two cups, there might be a new team that breaks through to the finals: the Boston Bruins, who also happens to be the last team from the East to make the finals that were not Tampa (2019, lost to St. Louis).

The Bruins have set a new record for regular season wins with 63, and have been the hottest team all season right from the time the first puck was dropped. When you look at the NHL standings in the final week of the regular season, Boston is 20+ points clear of any other team in the league.

Does that mean the Bruins are a shoo-in to win the Stanley Cup?

No: actually, the team that wins the President’s Cup as regular season champions rarely wins the Stanley Cup.

So if the Bruins, who have odds of +325 with the best sportsbook apps in Illinois to win the Stanley Cup (the favorites), are not going to win after this amazing season, which team is it?

Well, the defending champion Colorado Avalanche will have something to say. Colorado is finally healthy, and will go into the playoffs as the second favorite (+600 odds) ahead of another red-hot Western Conference team, the Edmonton Oilers (+800 odds). When you have a player like Connor McDavid, who just became the first player since Mario Lemieux in 1995-1996 to break the 150-point mark, anything is possible.

Of course, Carolina, New Jersey, and long-suffering Toronto will all have their say in the Eastern Conference as well, and please do not count out Tampa Bay: the Lightning has done it so many years in a row that they are now masters, and must be dealt with as such.

Yes, Boston is deservedly the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. But there are always twists and turns along the way in the playoffs: Colorado had to suffer two years of growing pains before it finally broke through last season.

Whatever happens, it should be a fun two months.

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