NHL Odds, Pick & Preview: Sabres vs. Canadiens (February 23)
Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images. Pictured: Montreal Canadiens standout Nick Suzuki.
- The Montreal Canadiens host the Buffalo Sabres in Wednesday's NHL showdown.
- Both teams are having subpar seasons, but the hiring of head coach Martin St. Louis has revitalized the Canadiens.
- Greg Liodice breaks down the game below and explains why he's backing Montreal.
Sabres vs. Canadiens Odds
|Over/Under||6 (-110 / -110)|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Two of the bottom five teams in the NHL square off Wednesday when Montreal hosts Buffalo.
These franchises have faced off three times this season, with the Sabres getting the upper hand on every occasion. The Canadiens will look to come out of this season series with at least something to show for it.
Buffalo is currently ice cold, currently riding a three-game losing streak, and going 3-6-1 in its last 10 games. All things considered, the Sabres really had a solid start to the season, but have recently fallen back to their consistent losing ways.
Many scratched their heads when Montreal hired Martin St. Louis as its new head coach two weeks ago, but it’s shaping out to be a positive for the club. The Canadiens have won three games in a row after an abysmal stretch, so they’re getting the most out of their players.
Buffalo has received some good production out of a few players. Jeff Skinner seems to be back in his groove with 20 goals already. Tage Thompson is shaping up to be a solid top-six player, and Rasmus Dahlin is quietly having a decent year.
However, the injury bug has hit the Sabres big time. Missing in action will be Zemgus Girgensons, Vinnie Hinostroza, Drake Caggiula, Casey Mittelstadt, Will Butcher, Jack Quinn and Colin Miller. Needless to say, that is quite jarring.
For what they are, they do a decent job at driving play. The Sabres are currently ranked 21st in expected goals per 60 minutes with a 2.27 xGF/60 minutes. However, they struggle at generating high-danger chances. The power play is one of their bright spots, though, as they score at a 19.6% clip, which is much better than previous seasons in Buffalo.
Certainly on the defensive side, things can be a bit better. The Sabres are currently 27th in high-danger chances allowed, as well as 25th overall in goals conceded.
Dustin Tokarski and Craig Anderson have seemed to split the starts since Anderson came back from injury. The 40-year-old Anderson is posting decent numbers with a .909 SV% and a -2.1 GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expected) this season.
Tokarski, on the other hand, hasn’t been as lucky with a .902 SV% and a -5.0 GSAx. So, it’s hard to say who gets the nod. I would keep tabs on it, but whomever it is, won’t make much of a difference in my opinion.
Don’t look now, but the Canadiens are red-hot at the moment. St. Louis might be the best thing that happened to them, especially young sensation Cole Caufield as he’s netted five goals and three assists in six games since he was hired.
They have also gotten solid contributions from Nick Suzuki and Josh Anderson, but I would say this is a new era in Montreal. However, similar to Buffalo, the injury bug has hit them bad. They’ll be minus Mathieu Perreault, Tyler Pitlick, David Savard, Joel Edmundson, Jonathan Drouin, Carey Price, Christian Dvorak and Jake Allen.
Even with the resurgence, the Canadiens still rank low in expected goals per 60 minutes and high danger chances created. Montreal is 31st with an xGF/60 of 1.98, and 19th in high danger chances created. The power play has been abysmal all season, scoring at a 12.7% clip that’s good enough for 31st in the league.
Defensively, the Canadiens aren’t much better, as they’re 28th in high danger chances allowed, as well as 32nd in goals yielded. They’re also 30th in their penalty kill this season.
I’ll be curious to see who starts in this matchup. The return of Andrew Hammond was a success when he handled the New York Islanders on Saturday, but Sam Montembeault was solid against Toronto.
Hammond had his first start in more than four years, stopping 30 out of 32 shots, where Montembeault is posting a .898 SV% as well as a -7.5 GSAx. You should keep an eye on who takes net, but if I were to guess, it would be Montembeault.
Sabres vs. Canadiens Pick
With this being a battle of two basement teams, one would’ve thought this could’ve been a game no one cared about. However, Montreal has seemed like a different team since the new coach was hired and Buffalo just looks sluggish.
The long-term underlying numbers don’t tell the story, but during this recent stretch, it just seems fitting the Canadiens are the way to go in this matchup.
Pick: Montreal ML (-110)