NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Picks: Senators vs. Sabres (October 13)

NHL Odds, Preview, Expert Picks: Senators vs. Sabres (October 13) article feature image

Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Norris #9 of the Ottawa Senators.

  • The Buffalo Sabres host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.
  • Expectations for both teams are higher than they've been in a couple years, but who has the advantage tonight?
  • Greg Liodice previews the matchup and shares his best bet below.

Senators vs. Sabres Odds

Senators Odds-125
Sabres Odds+105
Over/Under6 (-115/-105)
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

NHL’s opening week continues as the Ottawa Senators visit western New York to take on the Buffalo Sabres. It’s the tale of two teams who have spent the better part of the decade hashing it out in the lottery. But now they look to the future and expectations are higher than they’ve been in a while.

Ottawa is coming into this season with a lot of promise. Last season, the Senators finished 33-42-7, which was 13th in the East. However, a strong offseason has raised expectations.

Many thought last year was going to be a nightmare for Buffalo. Luckily for them, they rid themselves of the Jack Eichel drama and got a great package in return — turning a new page in the franchise’s history. The Sabres finished 32-39-11, which was good enough for 11th and better than the bottom feeder expectations many had.

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Ottawa Senators

What an offseason it was for the Senators, who are loaded with young talent but needed to improve the goaltending and acquired some veteran experience. Both those needs were addressed.

Ottawa traded for sniper Alex Debrincat and acquired veterans Claude Giroux and Tyler Motte. The Senators also traded for goaltender Cam Talbot, who’s the perfect partner for Anton Forsberg.

As much as I liked watching Ottawa last year, they weren’t necessarily the best at generating offense with an expected goals rate of 46.69 xGF%. Creating high-danger chances wasn’t their forte either as they ranked 22nd in the league. The power play was OK, but I expect it to make a significant jump with the additions of Giroux and Debrincat.

I mentioned the addition of Talbot being a big help moving forward, but the 10-year veteran will be out for 5-7 weeks with an injury. Moving forward, Ottawa will need to rely on Forsberg, who it really liked last year. After bouncing around various teams over the past few years, Forsberg put up a .909 SV% and a +8.5 GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expected). To put up those numbers on a team that allowed a decent amount of high danger chances is a strong showing.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres are on a similar trajectory to their counterparts, but perhaps not as close. After years of angst and heartbreak, the Sabres' faithful are finally looking for something to cheer about. The talent is there with Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, JJ Peterka and Alex Tuch. They are also adding former No. 1 pick Owen Power, who wowed a number of people when he debuted late last season, to the roster.

With another year under its belt, I expect Buffalo to improve its offensive game. Last season, the Sabres had the sixth-worst expected goals rate of 45.78% and were among the bottom tier in creating high danger chances. Having the man advantage was one of their strengths though, as they scored 21.2% of the time on the power play.

I’ll be keeping an eye on their goaltending situation. Buffalo hasn’t had a legitimate starter since Ryan Miller and has been in an identity crisis for years. The Sabres will enter the season with veteran Craig Anderson and Eric Comrie.

Comrie had sort of a breakout year last season. He backed up in Winnipeg in his first full season and posted a solid +10.3 GSAx and a .920 SV%. The question is if he can withstand a full season taking on more reps. I wonder a lot about Anderson. The 41-year-old came back after posting a .897 SV% and a -8.7 GSAx. At times he looked good, at other times he struggled. Goalies are always hard to predict, but for goalies Anderson’s age, it’s nearly impossible. Monitor this one closer to game time.

Senators vs. Sabres Pick

I’ve been buying loads of stock in the Senators since the offseason and think they’re a sneaky team capable of making a run this season. The two things I’m looking for Thursday is whether the defense can hold up and if Forsberg can repeat his exceptional play. Regardless, looking at the depth, the Senators are scary.

Looking at Buffalo, their defense worries me a bit. There is plenty of talent, but they’re all very young. Young defensemen make a lot of mistakes, especially at the start of the season. Last season, the Sabres let up the eighth-most high-danger chances, which could pose problems for the goaltending. I’m convinced Comrie can be a legitimate goaltender in this league, but he will need to bail his team out quite a bit.

I believe Ottawa’s firepower up front will give the young Buffalo defense headaches to start the season.

Pick: Ottawa Senators (-125)

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