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NHL Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Capitals vs. Sabres (Jan. 15)

NHL Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Capitals vs. Sabres (Jan. 15) article feature image

Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Ovechkin, Jack Eichel.

  • One night after a fun start to the NHL season for both teams, Buffalo and Washington meet again on Friday night.
  • The Sabres had what is considered to be a successful offseason, while the Capitals’ identity remains intact for yet another season, led by Alexander Ovechkin.
  • Michael Leboff explains why he’s going back to the Washington well for a second straight win.

Capitals vs. Sabres Odds

Capitals Odds -129 [BET NOW]
Sabres Odds +110 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 6  [BET NOW]
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV NHL Center Ice
Odds as of Thursday at 11:30 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

After playing to a 10-goal thriller on Thursday night, the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals will be right back at it on Friday.

Washington took care of business, 6-4, as -134 favorites on Thursday night and bookmakers have installed them right back in that range again on Friday.

Washington Capitals

We’ve got a pretty good idea of who the Washington Capitals are coming into 2021. Even though the Caps are playing for a new coach and there are a few new faces in town, Washington’s identity is pretty much unchanged and the Caps will go as far as their stars take them.

Washington’s offense has been nothing if not consistent over the past few seasons. The Caps finished third overall with 2.91 goals per 60 minutes (5-on-5) in 2019-20. They were also third the previous season with 3 goals per hour. Despite that, Washington has never been a team that really drives play. The Caps were under 50% in expected goals in 2018-19 and barely above break-even last season.

Stat (5-on-5) Regular Season (69 games) Rank
Goals per 60 2.91 3rd
Goals Against per 60 2.66 24th
Expected Goals per 60 2.54 5th
Expected Goals Against per 60 2.49 19th

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

There are some teams that can succeed despite not winning the territory battle. Washington is one of those clubs as the Caps have more than enough scoring power to out-run their underlying metrics.

Alex Ovechkin is still one of the league’s best goal-scorers. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom are terrific play-making centers. And T.J. Oshie, Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson give the Caps plenty of firepower on the edges. The offense shouldn’t have any problems lighting the lamp in D.C., but the question is whether or not they will be able to outscore their defensive flaws.

Not only did Washington finish in the bottom third of the NHL in expected goals against per 60 minutes, but the Caps allowed the sixth-most high-danger chances at 5-on-5 last season, too. Justin Schultz and Zdeno Chara were brought into D.C. to help shore up the blueline but neither one of them are more than fringe second-pair rearguards at this point in their careers.

That’s basically the theme of Washington’s defense outside of John Carlson, who is a Norris Trophy candidate.

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Buffalo Sabres

There’s no doubt about it, the Buffalo Sabres got better in the offseason.

Buffalo signed Taylor Hall to finally give Jack Eichel a runningmate of the proper caliber. The Sabres also improved their center depth by acquiring Eric Staal, who slots nicely behind Eichel. Buffalo’s top six, which should include Jeff Skinner, Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart, has turned into a considerable strength and should vastly improve after finishing 30th in the NHL with a 2.05 xGF/60 in 2019/20.

The other end of the ice is a bit of a concern for the Sabres as, outside of Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo doesn’t have a legitimate top-pair defenseman. Despite that, the Sabres posted some decent defensive metrics last season, allowing 2.37 goals and 2.26 xG per 60 minutes. Those defensive numbers were likely a side-effect of playing a more pragmatic style due to Buffalo’s lack of scoring talent.

Where the Sabres have a real issue is in goal, as neither Carter Hutton nor Linus Ullmark were very good in 2019/20. Hutton struggled to a -13.49 GSAx in 31 games, while Linus Ullmark was better, but still not impressive with a -4.81 GSAx in 34 games.

Capitals-Sabres Pick

Since this is the second game of a back-to-back we likely won’t get goalie confirmations until late in the evening. I’d imagine that the Sabres will start Ullmark after Hutton struggled in the opener, but the real question is what Peter Laviolette will do as the market will likely move away from the Caps if Laviolette starts Vitek Vanecek over Ilya Samsonov.

Since I don’t foresee this line getting high enough on Buffalo to warrant a bet (I would need something above +130 on the Sabres), I think the best course of action is wait to see who gets the nod in goal for the Caps. Should Laviolette roll with Vanecek, the market may overreact and provide some decent value on the Caps. If it’s Samsonov, I like the Caps at -130 or better.

Pick: Washington -130 or better

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