2024 NHL playoff previews: Who’s the favorite in all 8 first-round matchups?

2024 NHL playoff previews: Who’s the favorite in all 8 first-round matchups?

By Oghale Apr20,2024

By Dom Luszczyszyn, Sean Gentille and Shayna Goldman 

The regular season is over and the playoffs are here at last. All of our first-round previews are right here in one place. Let’s dive right in.

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals

Maybe life in Washington will come full circle and the Capitals will do their best impression of the 2010 Canadiens, defying the odds just a little longer. More likely than not, though, this series will end exactly as everyone expects: With the Rangers using it as a tune-up toward a more worthy challenge.

Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Islanders

If any team has the potential to do some damage now that they’re in the playoffs, it’s the Islanders. But that won’t be easy against a contender like the Hurricanes. Carolina likes its group for a reason. With a bona fide goal scorer in the mix, the Hurricanes should be the team to beat.

Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning know what it takes to win and have the motivation of last year’s Round 1 exit to fuel them. Counting them out is impossible, but the odds are not in their favor. The Panthers are in a different position from last year — they’ve been a favorite all season long. It’s their series to lose.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

If the Bruins win this series, you can assume how it’ll play out; Linus Ullmark and/or Jeremy Swayman will stand on their heads, and the skaters will score enough to get by. If the Maple Leafs win, it’ll be treated as another example of Auston Matthews and company exorcizing their playoff demons — for at least a few more games.

Western Conference

Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights

As our favorite colleague Pierre LeBrun likes to put it — this is big-boy hockey. There are so many fascinating series in the opening round and this one immediately shot toward the top of the list once it was locked in. Dallas and Vegas are two heavyweight teams with serious championship aspirations and it wouldn’t be a shock to see either team go all the way when all is said and done. The unfortunate reality is that it means one will be sent packing early, and it may just be the team that won it all last spring.

Winnipeg Jets vs. Colorado Avalanche

The Jets have the ingrained defensive ability and goaltender necessary to handle their business and the Avalanche still hew too closely to a one-line team to make this pick a no-brainer. Still, Colorado’s top-of-the-roster talent — especially when compared to Winnipeg’s — should ultimately shine through.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators

This series is a star-studded showdown between two teams that few expected to get this far at the start of the season. With how both teams play, the entertainment should be sky-high for what will likely be a sneaky-fun series. Both teams have a real shot in this series, but only one can prevail. That’s probably the Canucks — PDO merchants no more.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings

Everyone loves a rematch, and the Kings shouldn’t necessarily be counted out, but there’s simply too much good stuff going on with the Oilers to believe the results will be any different than 2022 and 2023. If the expected result becomes the actual one, maybe the fourth time will be the charm for L.A.

(Top photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

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