The NHL will resume its normal league schedule with teams back in their appropriate divisions. The league has played two consecutive COVID-shortened seasons, but will resume its 82-game schedule this season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup champions. They return the bulk of their roster, but can they get back to the Stanley Cup finals in 2022? Here’s a look at the NHL Eastern Conference futures odds and picks.
Favorites to Win the NHL Eastern Conference in 2022
The Lightning rallied late last season and won a second straight conference and Stanley Cup championship. They are poised to do so again with one of the deepest lineups in hockey.
Tampa Bay is listed as a +350 favorite to win the East once again. They will have goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy back in net after a remarkable 31-10-1 season a year ago. The key for the Lightning will be health.
Last season, Tampa Bay played with Nikita Kucherov for the entire regular season. He came back and played in the playoffs and was the team’s leading postseason scorer with 32 points. If he and players like Steven Stamkos stay healthy, the Lightning can win another conference title.
Contenders to Win the NHL Eastern Conference in 2022
If anyone can take down the Lightning, it’s likely to be Toronto. The Maple Leafs are given +500 odds to win the conference. Last year, they started off extremely hot but cooled down the stretch. The Leafs won the North Division and then went up 3-1 on Montreal in the first round of the playoffs. Toronto then lost three straight and was eliminated.
Toronto does, however, have the talent to win it all. Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and a host of others return to give the Leafs a solid shot at overcoming last season’s disappointment.
The other big contender to win the East is Boston (+600). The Bruins play solid defense and have the offensive talent to go deep in a postseason. Last year, the Bruins finished third in their division, beat Washington in the first round of the playoffs, and then lost to the Islanders in Round 2.
MVP caliber players like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak give Boston a chance at a conference title in 2022.
2022 NHL Eastern Conference Predictions
The biggest challenge for the Lightning is going to be getting past the team they barely got by in last year’s Eastern Conference final – the New York Islanders.
The Islanders are built for a Stanley Cup with the best defense in the conference and a host of young players that gained valuable experience last season. Plus, New York played the entire postseason without their captain and leading scorer Anders Lee.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov is quietly becoming one of the NHL’s elites at the position. He finished last season with a 2.04 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.
At +900, the Islanders have what it takes to get back to the Eastern Conference final. The question is can they beat the reigning two-time champion Lightning. The answer is yes.
THE PICK: ISLANDERS +900
Odds to Win 2022 NHL Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Lightning +350
Toronto Maple Leafs +500
Boston Bruins +600
Florida Panthers +900
New York Islanders +900
Pittsburgh Penguins +1000
New York Rangers +1200
Carolina Hurricanes +1200
Washington Capitals +1200
Philadelphia Flyers +1400
Montreal Canadiens +2200
New Jersey Devils +2200
Detroit Red Wings +10000
Ottawa Senators +10000
Buffalo Sabres +10000
Columbus Blue Jackets +10000
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