NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Sabres vs. Penguins (November 16)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Sidney Crosby
Sabres vs. Penguins Odds
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Pittsburgh will return home after a humiliating weekend, falling 6-3 in Ottawa Saturday before being trounced 6-1 to rival Washington Sunday. Buffalo took a tough home loss Saturday themselves after a Morgan Rielly goal with 12 seconds left prevented the Sabres from claiming even a single point. The Sabres are now 1-5-1 over their last six after a surprising 5-1-1 start to the season.
Will Pittsburgh continuing digging a hole in the Metropolitan Division playoff race, or can they get right finally skating at close to full strength against a sputtering Sabres squad?
Having hopefully fought through the worst of their injury and COVID-19 protocol situations, the Penguins will look to turn the page and get the season moving in the right direction as they look to extend their 15-season playoff streak.
The Penguins have certainly dug a hole in the Metropolitan Division playoff race, with a 5-5-4 record good for seventh, but the underlying numbers are still strong, and the team should certainly progress skating at full health.
Overall the Pens own a 52.82 xGF% on the season, and considering the vast number of crucial man games lost, it’s reasonable to think that Mike Sullivan’s bunch may see some positive regression.
The defensive unit still offers a lot of talent top-to-bottom, and I expect to see better results than we saw on the weekend over a messy two-game stretch going forward.
A number of depth pieces up front (long-term) have had positive starts to the season while playing up the lineup, including Evan Rodrigues and Jeff Carter, who both stepped up big in the absences of Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, and others.
Should Crosby, Rust, and Jake Guentzel click as we can reasonably expect on the top line, those pieces could offer the Penguins a relatively deep offensive unit once again.
This team may not be what they were in previous years, but they still yield a roster capable of more than the results have shown, especially if the goaltending duo of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith hold strong – but this is certainly not a guarantee.
Jarry will likely draw the start Tuesday and has bounced back solidly so far this season, posting a .918 Save % and with 1.0 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx).
Coach Don Granato can certainly be proud with the way his overmatched roster has competed on a night-in night-out basis, and a 6-6-2 record altogether is a very positive statement on the work-rate and attention to detail the team has played with when you consider the sheer lack of talent the roster holds.
With a number of talented yet unfinished pieces playing high up the lineup, as well as some notably below replacement depth pieces, the cracks are starting to show, and the Sabres have come down to earth after a hot start.
Particularly offensively, where the team holds next to no pieces who will strike fear as top-line opposition. Particularly with a very talented scorer in Victor Olofsson remaining out.
Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, and Rasmus Asplund have shown well as a top unit for the Sabres, but it’s a concerning look when that is your top trio by a decent margin in a fiercely competitive Eastern conference.
Dylan Cozens offers some upside and has Sabres fans justifiably excited, but is in a very tough situation centering Drake Caggiula and Vinny Hinostroza on the second line.
The goaltending duo consisting of Dustin Tokarski and Craig Anderson has produced better results than expected altogether, but is still likely to be another weakness long-term.
Craig Anderson’s status for the contest is unclear, having missed the last five contests with an upper-body injury and listed as day-to-day.
Dustin Tokarski will draw the start should Anderson remain out. Tokarski has posted a .908 save % over 7 contests, and a -0.1 goals saved above expected mark (GSAx).
Altogether Coach Don Granato is simply working with a considerably lesser lineup, and his 15-22-5 record as head coach of the Sabres is far from a comment towards his inadequacy.
Sabres vs. Penguins Pick
The Sabres have competed hard in the early going and will do their best to limit defensive breakdowns, but the talent is just not there to drive more of the play altogether. That has been evident over a 1-5-1 stretch in which the Sabres have created just 2.01 xGF/60 and a 46.73 xGF% share.
This contest in turn offers a great chance to reset and get right for the Penguins, who have found such consistent success under coach Mike Sullivan and the leadership of Sidney Crosby. I am willing to back them to find a way to claim the much-needed win here against a very manageable Buffalo squad.
I am going to back the Pens to pick up a regulation win at -160 and would play it to -175.
Pick: Penguins Regulation Win -160 (Play to -175)
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