Sunday NHL Odds, Picks, Prediction: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres Betting Preview
Claus Andersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Auston Matthews.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs are favored Sunday against the improving Buffalo Sabres.
- These teams will meet halfway between Buffalo and Toronto in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, for this game.
- Carol Schram breaks down the meeting below and delivers her top selection.
Maple Leafs vs. Sabres Odds
|Maple Leafs Odds||-290|
|Time||4 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres will take it outdoors on Sunday, with the 2022 Heritage Classic set to go in front of more than 24,000 fans at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario.
The NHL’s outdoor games are always a terrific spectacle. So far this season, we’ve seen the St. Louis Blues take down the Minnesota Wild by a 6-4 score in sub-zero conditions in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day, and the Tampa Bay Lightning spoil the party when they beat the Predators 3-2 at the hoedown in Nashville.
Sunday’s forecast looks promising, with temperatures right around freezing and perhaps a few flurries to add to the snow-globe effect at game time.
Here’s the latest on both clubs, and your best bet for the game.
Toronto Desires Goaltending Stability
Though they’re still heavily favored in this matchup, to say the Maple Leafs are going through a rough patch is an understatement.
The biggest issue is in net. Jack Campbell is now on injured reserve as he deals with a rib injury, and Petr Mrazek has been struggling.
Mrazek is sitting at a 3.43 goals-against average and .884 save percentage for the season. He has averaged 4.75 goals against in his last five appearances. And he got the hook midway through his last outing on Thursday, after giving up four goals on 12 shots to the Arizona Coyotes.
In his first-ever NHL appearance, 25-year-old minor-league call-up Erik Kallgren played well in relief and helped the Leafs earn a point against Arizona. Coach Sheldon Keefe is backing Mrazek, though, and has named him as starter on Sunday’s big stage.
The Leafs’ goaltending struggles have dominated the headlines as they’ve gone 2-2-1 in their last five games — a stretch that kicked off with a 5-1 loss to the same Sabres team that they’ll face in Hamilton.
The defensive drama is overshadowing the accomplishments of Toronto’s outstanding forward group. Auston Matthews is on a four-game goal streak, where he has scored seven times. He leads all NHL players with 44 tallies, six more than second-place Chris Kreider and Leon Draisaitl.
Matthews and Mitch Marner are also tied with Vancouver’s J.T. Miller for the most points since the All-Star Break, with 25. And with 18 points since the break, Michael Bunting leads all rookies in scoring as he makes his case for the Calder Trophy.
To parse out Toronto’s current situation another way — over its last 10 games, it leads the NHL in Corsi For and Expected Goals For at 5-on-5. And the the Leafs’ corresponding defensive numbers are strong, putting them second in Corsi For percentage and first in Expected Goals percentage. But that third-worst team save percentage of 86.99% has been changing the expected outcomes of games.
Buffalo Showing Signs of Optimism
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Sabres sit 34 points behind the Leafs in the Atlantic Division standings, and the goal differential between the two teams is nearly in the triple digits: +41 for Toronto, compared to -53 for Buffalo.
And yet, there’s an air of optimism around the Sabres, who are 3-2-0 in their last five games. They’re coming to Hamilton after handing Jack Eichel’s Vegas Golden Knights a 3-1 defeat on Thursday, when they got two goals coming from players they acquired in the Eichel swap — Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch.
After growing up in Syracuse, Tuch has become an instant leader since returning to his home region. He’s producing at the best pace of his career, with 24 points in 27 games since joining the Sabres.
In their last 10 games, the Sabres are in the middle of the pack in Corsi For percentage, but in the bottom 10 in expected goals percentage at 5-on-5. Buffalo’s power play has been a key part of all three of its recent wins, as has ageless wonder Craig Anderson — the 40-year-old keeper who has started seven of the Sabres’ last nine games and earned his 300th career win against Vegas on Thursday.
Maple Leafs vs. Sabres Pick
Geographically, Hamilton is about midway between Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena and KeyBank Center in Buffalo. Officially, Sunday’s game goes into the books as a home game for Sabres, so Don Granato’s team will get last change.
It’s the third of four meetings this season between the two teams. Back on Nov. 13, Morgan Rielly tallied the game-winner as the Leafs beat the Sabres 5-4 in Buffalo.
With Buffalo in a positive mindset and the Leafs under immense pressure to get their house in order with the trade deadline just a week away, it’s no stretch to think that the long-shot Sabres could turn up the heat on Toronto by pulling out a win. The long-shot bet has some merit.
But at plus money, don’t look away from the over of 6.5. That mark that has been passed in the Leafs’ last four games, and 13 of 17 since the All-Star break and should almost certainly be eclipsed again outdoors on Sunday.
Pick: Over 6.5 +100 (play down to -120)
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