NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Bruins vs. Sabres (November 24)
Rich Gagnon/Getty Images. Pictured: David Pastrnak.
Bruins vs. Sabres Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
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The Boston Bruins currently find themselves on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoffs and will look to claim two crucial points from one of their games in hand and in turn shake off an embarrassing 4-0 home defeat at the hands of a strong Calgary Flames squad.
The Sabres, meanwhile, have started trending toward the bottom of the league as expected with a 2-7-1 record over their last 10 games.
Linus Ullmark will make his return to Buffalo and will surely be given the start here from coach Bruce Cassidy. Ullmark is looking to trend upwards after some questionable early results and gets a Sabres team that offers a rather shaky goaltending situation themselves.
Boston Should Be Fine But Needs to Improve
Boston will need to make up ground in the highly competitive Eastern conference should it manage a sixth consecutive postseason berth, and I think we can safely expect the B’s to do so as the season rolls along.
The Bruins hold one of the league’s top defensive cores, an excellent top line and will figure to hold a combined special teams mark of over 100% (penalty kill success rate + power play success rate) yet again under Cassidy. They currently sit with a combined 105% mark.
The results have been strong so far at 5-on-5 as well for Boston, with a 55.45 xGF% altogether this season. The concerns are as expected — what kind of goaltending the Bruins will receive from the combination of Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman and what kind of depth scoring the group will see in behind the perfection line. That does appear to be an area they need to step up again compared to Eastern powerhouses like Florida and Carolina.
However altogether, I do not see how this Bruins team won’t safely grind into the playoffs, even in a very competitive conference race. Boston’s excellent puck management and team structure from top to bottom will allow a considerable advantage against lesser competition such as the Sabres.
Ullmark should draw the start, and has been shaky so far in stopping .908 percent of shots faced and a -4.0 goals saved above expected rating (GSAx).
Struggling Sabres Offer Little Optimism
Buffalo continues to trend downward after a surprisingly promising start to the season. The Sabres have seen their struggles compounded as Aaron Dell and Dustin Tokarski have started to struggle as expected in net while Craig Anderson remains sidelined with an upper body injury.
The last 11 times out, Buffalo have managed just a 43.06 xGF%. Unsurprisingly for a team unlikely to steal games on raw talent, or with spectacular goaltending, the result has been a dreadful 2-8-1 stretch.
Rasmus Dahlin’s defensive struggles have been possibly the most concerning for Sabres fans, as going forward he figures to be an important part of Buffalo’s rebuild. Dahlin still clearly offers some upside altogether but has featured a number of glaring breakdowns resulting in goals against yet again this season, after a very poor campaign last season.
It is unclear whether Buffalo will go with Dell or Tokarski here, but I would lean toward Dell after Tokarski’s poor outing led to an early pull against Columbus.
Dell has struggled again so far this season, with an .874 save percentage and -3.5 GSAx rating. Last season with New Jersey, he managed just an .857 save percentage, and his NHL numbers have been far from strong outside of his first two seasons in San Jose.
I have felt that Buffalo’s greatest strength under Don Granato has been the team’s organized structure and work rate, and that even the small amount of success which has been achieved over his tenure has been a comment on his abilities as a coach, considering how treacherous the roster is.
As the year runs along it is becoming clear again just how little talent this roster holds, and the few bright spots offered have been outshined of late by a very shaky goaltending duo.
The Sabres have started to receive the kind of lesser results a duo of Tokarski and Dell are likely to produce, as neither have proven to be capable NHL starters over their careers.
I expect Boston to come in here and control a good deal more of the play, and I think this is a good spot to back them to bully a lesser Sabres team, and put together a very sharp effort against Ullmark’s former squad to get him moving in the right direction.
Over their last 11 contests the Sabres average goal differential has been -1.6, and I think that there’s a good chance that trend continues here against a strong Bruins club.
I see value on the square play here on the Bruins puck line (-1.5) at +120, and would play that number down to +105.
Pick: Bruins -1.5 +120 (play to +105)