Bruins' path to Cup Final getting harder as Leafs, Rangers, Devils load up


The Boston Bruins are the favorites to win the 2023 Stanley Cup. 

They have the NHL's best record at 45-8-5 and are on pace to challenge the league records for the most wins and points by a single team in regular season history. Boston ranks No. 3 in goals scored, No. 1 in goals against, No. 7 on the power play and No. 1 on the penalty kill.

They just upgraded an already strong roster by acquiring top-four defenseman Dmitry Orlov and bottom-six forward Garnet Hathaway in a trade with the Washington Capitals last Thursday.

How Bruins' trade for Orlov, Hathaway significantly improves their roster

Despite all of this positive momentum for the Bruins, their path to the Cup Final got increasingly more difficult over the last week. 

The Eastern Conference playoffs are going to be an absolute slugfest.

Why is that? Well, the top contenders in the conference are loading up. Several of these teams have made substantial upgrades over the last few weeks.

The latest came Sunday when the New Jersey Devils, who sit second in the Metropolitan Division, pulled off a trade for the best player rumored to be available -- San Jose Sharks star right wing Timo Meier. The Devils have incredible depth and talent up front, and their plus-51 goal differential is No. 2 in the league behind the Bruins. New Jersey is a mostly young and inexperienced team, but its talent is no joke. They are a legitimate threat in the conference.

The New York Rangers are trying to seize their opportunity, too. They swung a huge trade for St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko earlier this month. Multiple reports over the weekend indicated that Chicago Blackhawks star right wing Patrick Kane going to New York is a real possibility. The Rangers are a physical team with a top 10 offense and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Igor Shesterkin. Don't sleep on New York as a real contender.


The Tampa Bay Lightning are the three-time defending East champs with Stanley Cup titles in 2019-20 and 2020-21. They made a bold move Sunday by acquiring bottom-six forward Tanner Jeannot from the Nashville Predators in exchange for five (!) draft picks, including a 2025 first-rounder. It was a ton to give up for a player with five goals this season, but given the Lightning's history acquiring bottom-six forwards ahead of the trade deadline -- like Barclary Goodrow and Blake Coleman, for example -- it's hard to criticize this move too much.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are going for it, too. They made a blockbuster deal to acquire 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner and top-six center Ryan O'Reilly, in addition to bottom-six forward Noel Acciari from the Blues earlier this month. The early returns have been positive for Toronto as O'Reilly has posted five points (three goals, two assists) in his first five games. The Leafs have Auston Matthews, John Tavares and O'Reilly as their top three centers. On Monday, the Leafs made another bold move to acquire defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks, further bolstering their depth at key positions.

This improved depth, combined with the seventh-best save percentage (.907) in the league, has made the Leafs well-positioned to win their first playoff series since 2004.

The New York Islanders acquired a top-six center in Bo Horvat in January, and they are 6-3-2 in his 11 games with the team. He has five goals with three assists with his new squad. 

Several other contenders in the East could make moves, too.

The Carolina Hurricanes have as good of a chance to win the Stanley Cup as anyone, especially when you consider how well they play against the Bruins. Carolina has won seven consecutive home games versus Boston, including the 2022 playoffs. The 'Canes are a tough matchup for the B's with their scoring depth, elite blue line and aggressive forechecking. If the Hurricanes make a meaningful upgrade before Friday's deadline, they will be very tough to beat four times in a seven-game series. Carolina has a little more than $ 10 million in salary cap space, per CapFriendly, so it has plenty of flexibility to make moves.

Will Bruins make more moves at trade deadline? Here is Don Sweeney's reply

The Buffalo Sabres are one point out of a playoff spot. They haven't made the playoffs since 2010-11, and that 11-year postseason appearance drought is the longest active run in the league. Buffalo has plenty of picks and prospects to make upgrades before Friday if it chooses.


You could make a real case for six teams in the East -- Bruins, Hurricanes, Leafs, Lightning, Devils and Rangers -- as legit title contenders. These six teams are all in the top eight of DraftKings Sportsbook's current Stanley Cup title odds, too.

The Eastern Conference playoffs are going to produce plenty of fireworks, and the team that emerges and reaches the Stanley Cup Final will definitely be battle tested. As good as the Bruins have played, plenty of other teams have a chance to beat them, which makes the next couple days before the trade deadline fascinating. 

Which of these contenders will make one or two more moves to improve their roster for a championship run?