2024 NHL playoff odds: Carolina leads Stanley Cup odds ahead of first round

The 2024 NHL playoffs begin today with two games in the Eastern Conference. Game 1 between the New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes starts at 5 p.m. ET and the series opener between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs tips off at 8 p.m. ET.

These are the first bits of action as teams begin their quest for the Stanley Cup. Here's how the top 10 playoff teams rank via odds from BetMGM for the championship as Round 1 begins:

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1. Carolina Hurricanes (+650)

The Hurricanes are the slight favorites thanks to one of the top defenses in the league. Carolina allowed just 2.57 goals per game in the regular season (third in the NHL) and goalie Frederik Andersen's been in great form since returning to the ice. They're deep, too, after adding proven winners Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov at the deadline. The Hurricanes' main concerns as the playoffs begin are Andersen's health and the lack of postseason success in recent years.

2. Florida Panthers (+700)

Staying in the Eastern Conference, Florida's next behind Carolina in odds for the title. Sam Reinhart finished the regular season first in power play goals (27) and shooting percentage (24.5). Gustav Forsling led the league in plus/minus. As a team, Florida allowed the fewest goals in the league per game (2.41) this year following a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2023. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them back again.

3. Dallas Stars (+750)

The top team in the Western Conference rounds out the top three contenders in odds. Peter DeBoer's squad heads into the playoffs with a deeper roster than last year, when they made the conference finals. They're fourth in the NHL in scoring (3.59 goals per game) and secured home ice through the Western Conference playoffs. Adding Chris Tanev at the deadline helps but unfortunately they open the playoffs with a series against the defending champion Golden Knights.

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T-4. Colorado Avalanche (+800)

Colorado's just two years removed from a Stanley Cup win and finished the regular season as the NHL's top scoring team (3.73 goals per game). Nathan MacKinnon is an MVP candidate after finishing fourth in the league in goals (51) and third in assists (89). The top-line talent is undeniable but they went 4-6 to close the regular season.

T-4. Edmonton Oilers (+800)

Since Kris Knoblauch took over during the season, Edmonton became one of the best teams in the league. A 16-game winning streak through the New Year pushed them to the top of the conference. Connor McDavid, Zach Hyman and Leon Draisaitl are a potent scoring trio and Evan Bouchard is no slouch, either. This could be the group to buck prior playoff disappointments.

T-4. New York Rangers (+800)

The Rangers won the Presidents' Trophy by one point over Dallas. Because of that, history isn't on their side: the last team to win both the Presidents' Trophy and the Stanley Cup was the Chicago Blackhawks in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Artemi Panarin had a career year and Alexis Lafreniere broke out as one of the team's best young players. The Rangers shine on special teams; New York's top three in the league in both power play and penalty kill percentage.

7. Boston Bruins (+1100)

Boston won last year's Presidents' Trophy by a country mile but got bounced in the first round by the Panthers in seven games. Luckily, history is on their side as four of the last five Presidents' Trophy winners made the Stanley Cup Final in the following season. Jeremy Swayman is one of the best goalies in the league and the offense is good enough to get hot. Power play is a concern, though, as Boston went 3-for-32 in the final 12 games of the regular season.

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8. Vegas Golden Knights (+1200)

Vegas made it five postseason appearances in their first six seasons after clinching the final seed in the Western Conference. That does set up a series against conference favorite Dallas which, given the Golden Knights' Stanley Cup last season, could be one of the best of the first round. Mark Stone is cleared for full practice after a lacerated spleen and Vegas was aggressive at the deadline, potentially the beginnings of another run.

9. Toronto Maple Leafs (+1400)

Auston Matthews' league-best 69 goals in the regular season powers Toronto with one of the top offenses in the NHL (3.63 goals per game). But that offense fell flat in the final week of the regular season with an 0-3-1 record heading into the postseason. They're drawing a tough matchup, too, with a first-round series against a Bruins team they went winless against in the regular season (0-2-2).

T-10. Vancouver Canucks (+1500)

Vancouver enjoyed one of the top turnarounds in the league this season and won the Pacific Division with a solid team on both ends of the ice. The Canucks finished the regular season sixth in the league in both goals allowed (2.73) and goals scored (3.44) per game. Vancouver's core of players made a run to the second round in 2020. That group, plus returning goalie Thatcher Demko, could give them a strong squad in the postseason.

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T-10. Winnipeg Jets (+1500)

Winnipeg's the hottest team in the league and closed the season on an eight-game winning streak. Connor Hellebuyck's one of the best goalies in the league and the Jets post the best save percentage in the NHL (91.8%). If the regular season is any sign, they'll have little trouble against Colorado in the first round. Winnipeg went 3-0-0 against the Avalanche in the regular season.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stanley Cup odds: NHL playoff favorites as postseason heats up