The NHL’s unofficial first half of the 2022-23 season is in the books (most teams have played at least 50 of the total 81 games). With the All-Star break this weekend, let’s take a look at the top storylines of the first half and who the favorites are to lift the Stanley Cup in the spring. Check our NHL First Half Season Recap.

NHL First Half Season Recap Boston’s Dominating in a Tough Division

Three of the top six teams in the NHL in points at the All-Star break play in the Atlantic Division, led by the Boston Bruins’ 83 points, which is 13 more than second-place Toronto and seven better than any other team in the league.

Boston is 39-7-5 after 51 games, which puts the Bruins on pace for 63 wins. That would break the NHL record shared by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning with 62 wins apiece. The B’s pace of 133 points would give them one more than the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens had despite playing two fewer games than the Bruins will.

Goaltender Linus Ullmark has 25 wins, which will put him in striking distance of Braden Holtby’s record of 48.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning are in second and third place, respectively, in the East and are likely to meet in the first round of the playoffs—just like they did last year. The Leafs showed faith in their core after the seven-game loss to Tampa Bay, and it’s paying off. Toronto is thriving despite Auston Matthews not having a big season, led by Mitch Marner and Mark Giordano.

The Lighting had a slow start—and who can blame them for playing in the Stanley Cup Final in three-straight seasons—but they’re still in solid playoff position, and expect head coach Jon Cooper to manage the minutes of stars Nikita Kucherov (55 points), Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman as it gets closer to playoff time.

HL First Half Season Recap: New Jersey’s Long Winning Streak Has Devils in the Mix

The Devils have had talent but are now just starting to put it together. They had a franchise-record 13-game winning streak early in the season, and they’ve stayed in playoff position with Jack Hughes having an MVP-like season along with a great two-way game from Nico Hischier. Carolina won the Metropolitan Division last year and is on pace to do it again behind Martin Necas, who is leading the team with 17 goals, and rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov. The New York Rangers are also playing well after a sluggish start. Adam Fox has 41 points in 40 games, and the team’s defense and goaltending are top-notch.

Colorado Rising in Wide-Open West

After winning the Stanley Cup last year, the Colorado Avalanche were the favorites to do it again. But a five-game losing streak in January put them down in the wild-card mix in the Western Conference. Injuries have played a factor, but Cale Makar is having a great season for the Avs.

None of the other top teams in the West were players last year: Vegas, Seattle, and Winnipeg all missed the playoffs while Dallas was eliminated in the first round. Jason Robertson is playing so well that he could be a 50-goal, 100-point earner, by the end of the season.  Goaltender Jake Oettinger leads a deep team that has lost two games in a row just once all season.

The Vegas Golden Knights should return to the playoffs thanks to the play of backup goaltender Logan Thompson. Eight players, including Jack Eichel, Chandler Stephenson, and William Karlsson, have each scored more than 20 points.

Seattle has a dynamic offense and is a playoff threat in their second year of existence, and Winnipeg has Vezina Trophy candidate Connor Hellebuyck in the net along with Josh Morrissey’s two-way prowess that has him on pace for 93 points as a defenseman.

On the Disappointing Side

Teams underperforming include Florida—last year’s President’s Trophy winner—who would be out of the playoffs if they started today. Edmonton, who reached the Western Conference Final last year, will be fighting for a playoff spot, and Columbus, who signed Johnny Goudreau from Calgary over the summer, is tied with Chicago for fewest points in the NHL with 34.

Stanley Cup Odds Preview

The Bruins started the season at +2500 to win the Stanley Cup and are now +325 to lift the trophy. At +700 are two teams that aren’t assured to go deep into the playoffs—defending champ Colorado may have to get in on a wild-card berth and Toronto will likely have to get past the three-time Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay to reach the second round.

Here’s a look at the odds to win the 2022-23 NHL Stanley Cup, courtesy of Jazz Sports.

Boston Bruins+325
Colorado Avalanche+700
Toronto Maple Leafs+700
Carolina Hurricanes+800
Tampa Bay Lightning+1200
New Jersey Devils+1200
Vegas Golden Knights+1500
Dallas Stars+1500
Edmonton Oilers+1500

Conference Championship Odds

Tampa Bay or Toronto will have to beat each other and then likely Boston just to reach the Eastern Conference Final. It will be quite difficult to survive that and then beat either Carolina, New Jersey, or the New York Rangers in a conference final. The path will be slightly easier for Boston, and the winner of Metropolitan Division part of the playoffs will have to face only one of Boston, Tampa Bay, or Toronto to reach the Stanley Cup Final. So, outside of Boston, a Metropolitan Division team is a good dark horse.

Let’s look at the favorites to win the 2022-23 NHL Eastern Conference, courtesy of Jazz Sports.

Boston Bruins+275
Toronto Maple Leafs+400
Carolina Hurricanes+450
Tampa Bay Lightning+850
New Jersey Devils+850
New York Rangers+1000                         

In the Western Conference, the oddsmakers are still expecting the Avalanche to make a run even though they are currently into the playoffs by just three points and would be a wild card at this point in the season. Dallas is their closest challenger in the odds, followed by Vegas and Edmonton. Colorado’s path would be against Dallas and followed by the winner of a potential Minnesota vs. Winnipeg series.

Here are the favorites to win the 2022-23 NHL Western Conference, courtesy of Jazz Sports.

Colorado Avalanche+300
Dallas Stars+500
Vegas Golden Knights+550
Edmonton Oilers+550
Calgary Flames+850
Winnipeg Jets / Minnesota Wild+1000
Seattle Kraken+1200

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