NHL Betting Odds and Picks (Monday, March 9): Capitals vs. Sabres, Golden Knights vs. Oilers and More

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Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Ovechkin

  • The updated odds of tonight's NHL matchup between the Capitals and Sabres make the Caps favorites (-160) on the road.
  • Michael Leboff previews Monday's slate, including Capitals vs. Sabres and more.
  • Check out his betting preview and picks below.

A few weeks ago, everybody in hockey was praising the strength of the Metropolitan Division and snickering at the anybody-can-win Pacific Division.

Things have changed a bit.

There’s less than a month to go in the NHL regular season and every contender in the Metropolitan Division outside of the Philadelphia Flyers has stumbled, while a few teams in the Pacific Division — Vegas, Edmonton and Calgary — are making a late-season push.

Oh, and a night after they beat the Boston Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Hockey continues to make little sense.

Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres

  • Capitals odds: -165
  • Sabres odds: +145
  • Over/Under: 6.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET

I wouldn’t say the Washington Capitals are a paper tiger — they have a lot of talent and won a Stanley Cup despite some mediocre 5-on-5 metrics two years ago — but I remain skeptical that Washington is as much a contender as its record makes it out to be.

The Capitals rank 16th in the NHL with a 50.3% expected goals rate at 5-on-5 on the season and they’ve been trending down of late. Washington sports a 48.7% expected goals rate and is allowing 3.3 goals per 60 minutes (5-on-5) in that span. The Caps can outscore some of their flaws, but this is a defense that is playing with fire.

Heatmap via HockeyViz.com

The Sabres aren’t the type of team that will punish you for bad defense, Buffalo ranks 29th in expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, but the Sabres play solid defense and hang around games by keeping them predictable.

The Capitals win this game more often than they lose it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad bet. The Caps fit the profile of a team that is overvalued (great record, mediocre predictive stats) and the Sabres have a good enough defense to turn this game into a rock fight. If Buffalo is successful at slowing this game down and turning it into a coin flip, this number looks great.

I’d play the Sabres down to +140.

[Bet now at William Hill. NJ only.]

Around the League

I think the price on the Edmonton Oilers (-120) is a little cheap against the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights (+100).

The Knights boast the best expected goals rate in the NHL this season and they are operating at 61.1% since the beginning of February, but they aren’t the only team in the Pacific that has improved. Edmonton’s 5-on-5 play still isn’t great, but if the Oilers post break-even xG splits, they should be fine. That’s the luxury of having Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on your roster.

The Oilers have taken some money since this line opened and I agree with the market. If you adjust these odds for home-ice advantage and rest (Vegas is on a back-to-back), you’d get Vegas as roughly a -135 favorite in a vacuum.

The Knights are the better team overall, but I think Edmonton is the value side on Monday night.

[Bet now at William Hill. NJ only.]

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