Thanks to the NHL’s playoff system, two of the top-eight teams in the NHL futures odds for the Stanley Cup champion could be eliminated in the first round. This includes either the New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils.

The current Stanley Cup Playoff format sets up the brackets by division instead of the top-eight in each conference like the prior format and the one still in use by the NBA.

The format sees the division winner play two “wild card” teams from the conference, which are the two highest point totals among teams that don’t finish in the top-three of each division. That leaves the second- and third-place teams from each division to meet in the first round.

Here’s a look at the Eastern Conference standings via points with games played going into action on Friday, March 10.

1. Boston Bruins103631. Carolina Hurricanes9463
2. Toronto Maple Leafs86642. New Jersey Devils9064
3. Tampa Bay Lightning82653. New York Rangers8164
4. Ottawa Senators70644. New York Islanders (WC1)7667
5. Florida Panthers70655. Pittsburgh Penguins (WC2)7464

First off, stick taps for the New York Islanders, who have played their way into playoff contention by going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

But looking at the 2 vs. 3 matchups, Toronto, Tampa Bay, New Jersey, and the NY Rangers are all among the top-eight favorites to win the Stanley Cup. If the current matchups hold, two of those four teams will not reach the second round.

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Rangers Stanley Cup Odds Holding Steady Despite Slump

Patrick Kane scored his first goal since being traded from Chicago to NYR last week in a 4-3 shootout win over Montreal on Thursday night. Kane’s power-play goal tied the game at three before Mike Zibanejad netted the game-winner in the shootout.

The Rangers got their first win in three games with Kane and are now 3-6 in their last nine games. Despite the recent struggles, New York is virtually a lock to reach the playoffs, and that’s all that’s important for the oddsmakers.

Goaltender Igor Shesterkin is third in the NHL in wins and is tied for 12th in goals against average with 2.67. That’s in line with his playoff stats from a year ago, where the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference Final before losing to Tampa Bay in six games.

Artemi Panarin is among the league leaders in assists with 53. In addition to Kane, they picked up scorers Vladimir Tarasenko and Tyler Motte along with defenseman Niko Mikkola at the trade deadline.

NYR’s toughest part of the schedule is approaching with a home-and-home against division leader Carolina and three meetings with Pittsburgh, who is fighting for their playoff lives.

The Rangers currently have odds of +1300 to win the Stanley Cup, which is the best value available at both NY sportsbooks FanDuel and PointsBet.

Can Devils Avoid a Meeting With the Rangers in the First Round?

The Devils came back to earth a bit after a 13-game winning streak in November into December, but they have kept pace with first-place Carolina all season. If they cannot chase the Hurricanes down, New Jersey will host the Rangers in a first-round series.

New Jersey has won two of the three head-to-head matchups with the Blueshirts with one more remaining before the regular season comes to an end.

It will be the postseason debut for many Devils, including Jack Hughes, who is ninth in the NHL with 36 goals and has 76 points overall.

New Jersey currerntly has +1200 odds at BetMGM, which is the best available odds at NY sportsbooks.

Rangers and Devils Have a Difficult Road to Stanley Cup

If the Rangers and Devils do meet in the first round, the winner will have to face a tough path. The likely second-round opponent would be Carolina, who has the second-best point total in the NHL. Boston, who could break the record for points in a season, could be waiting in the Eastern Conference Final. If the Bruins are the victim of an upset, Toronto or Tampa Bay would also be a difficult opponent.

We feel we need to see more success from the Rangers before we could back a bet on them to win the Stanley Cup. They have time to gel under Kane and the other newcomers, but right now a championship seems like a big ask for the Blueshirts.

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