NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Blue Jackets vs. Sabres (Dec. 20)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Blue Jackets vs. Sabres (Dec. 20) article feature image
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Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Okposo

Editor’s note: Monday’s game between the Blue Jackets and Sabres has been postponed.

Blue Jackets vs. Sabres Odds

Blue Jackets Odds -110
Sabres Odds -110
Over/Under 5.5
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

This isn’t necessarily the most exciting matchup, but with the way everything is going in the NHL, we’ll take what we can get.

So many teams have been effected by Covid-19, but the Sabres and Blue Jackets will not allow that to distract them. While neither club is expected to be in the playoff picture this spring, both teams have out-performed modest expectations through the first 10 weeks of the season.

The Blue Jackets Have Slowed Down

Columbus has played nine of its last 11 games on the road and the hectic schedule has slowed this team down. The Jackets have won just two of its last 10 games and now boasts a 14-13-1 record after starting the campaign at 12-6-0.

The Jackets are going through a re-build and don’t have many superstars, but they have found ways to compete this season. Columbus averages the 10th-most goals per game (3.18), but that number will likely regress as the Jackets rank 20th in expected goals for and 25th in high-danger chances created at 5-on-5 this season.

Elvis Merzlikins was a big part of Columbus’ hot start, but like the rest of the team the Latvian goaltender has seen a dip in form. Still, Elvis’ 11-7-0 record and his +1.3 Goals Saved Above Expected are strong numbers considering that Columbus’ defense has been a mess through the first 28 games. Columbus has allowed the eighth-most high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 this season and ranks 30th in expected goals allowed.

As long as Merzlikins gets the nod, the Jackets should have a decided advantage in the blue paint for tonight’s matchup.


The Sabres Have Not Been Bad

Outside of Arizona, most people tabbed the Sabres as the worst team on paper in the NHL this season. However, games still have to be played and the Sabres have not been that bad. In fact, Buffalo comes into this contest riding a four-game point streak (2-0-2) over a stretch that saw the Sabres play Winnipeg, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Washington.

At 10-15-5 nobody is starting to plan a parade for the Sabres, but considering their expectations it’s not a bad spot to be for this club. And they could have been in an even better position if they had consistent goaltending. After starting the season with Dustin Tokarski and Craig Anderson as their tandem, the Sabres have taken things in a new direction by calling up Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and trading for Malcolm Subban.

Of the two, Luukkonen has been the more impressive, skating to a .939 save percentage (SV%) and a +3.2 GSAx in five games.

While the goaltending has been Buffalo’s biggest issue this season, the team has struggled to drive play. The Sabres rank 26th in expected goals rate and high-danger chance rate this season.

Sabres vs. Blue Jackets Pick

The Blue Jackets have spent a lot of time traveling and playing games on the road as of late, and coincidentally that has led to a dip in form. Meanwhile, the Sabres have started to find their game thanks to an upgrade in goal with Luukkonen.

The Jackets have really struggled to prevent scoring chances all season and I expect their offense to regress as the season wears on. The Sabres don’t have great play-driving numbers either, but they’ve been trending in the right direction of late.

In the end, there’s not that much that separates these two teams right now, and with the Sabres playing at home I like the value on Buffalo in a pick’em.

Pick: Buffalo Sabres -110

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