NHL Odds & Pick for Philadelphia Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres: Can Buffalo Avoid Record for Longest Losing Streak? (Wednesday, March 31)

NHL Odds & Pick for Philadelphia Flyers vs. Buffalo Sabres: Can Buffalo Avoid Record for Longest Losing Streak? (Wednesday, March 31) article feature image

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Linus Ullmark

  • The Buffalo Sabres are one loss away from the longest losing streak in NHL history.
  • All that stands in their way is a Flyers team that has been scuffling of late.
  • Is history upon us? Michael Leboff breaks it down below.

Flyers vs. Sabres Odds

Flyers Odds-190
Sabres Odds+163
TimeWednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Tuesday and via DraftKings

One of the most compelling storylines in sports will reach its climax in a nationally televised game on Wednesday night. The Buffalo Sabres, losers of 18 straight games, will look to avoid setting the record for longest losing streak in NHL history when they host the Philadelphia Flyers in what can only be called the most important hockey game ever.

It's insane that we're even at this point. On Monday night, Hockey Twitter was aflutter as they watched the Sabres race out to a 3-0 lead against the plummeting Flyers. I was on Buffalo that night. A lot of other seasoned hockey bettors were with me. This was supposed to be the night.

Predictably and pathetically, the Sabres coughed up their 3-0 lead by allowing three goals in the third period. It had to happen this way, I guess. So now Buffalo is staring down dubious history. No team in the NHL's 104-year history has ever lost 19 games in a row. The 2003-04 Penguins, a team that was paced in scoring by journeyman defenseman Dick Tärnström, is the only other team in the NHL's 104-year history to have a losing streak of 18 games. In a lost season, there is at least something on the line for these Sabres on Wednesday night.

Honestly, though, you couldn't pick out a better opponent for this spectacle than the Philadelphia Flyers. A team that came into the season with lofty expectations, the Flyers have been found out over the past month. The Flyers have tumbled down the standings in the East Division, losing a 9-0 and 8-3 game along the way, and the entire fanbase has turned on the team like only Philadelphia fans can. These two teams were meant for each other.

In terms of how they match up, the numbers look like you'd expect when a team currently riding an 18-game nosedive plays a team that is still on the fringes of the playoff picture. The numbers are ugly for Buffalo, but this Flyers team is there for the taking if you are somewhat competent. The Sabres are not that.

5-on-5 StatBuffalo SabresPhiladelphia Flyers
Goals for per 60 minutes1.582.54
Goals against per 602.893.27
Goal differential per 60-1.31-0.73
Expected goals for per 602.052.14
Expected goals against per 602.422.22
Expected goal differential per 60-0.37-0.08
High-danger chance percentage49%47.5%

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

As bad as the Sabres are, at least the Flyers are unremarkable. In hockey, a bad team can beat a good team on any given night, so why can't a historically awful team defeat a pedestrian one currently tail-spinning its way out of contention?

Sabres vs. Flyers Best Bet

If you're familiar with my hockey coverage you knew where this was going. There is no way I am sitting this one out. Betting is supposed to be fun and I can think of very few things more fun than having a flutter on a team on the verge of cementing itself its status as one of the worst teams in NHL history. Sports are all about moments. This is a moment, and betting means you can be invested in this incredible saga.

I do acknowledge that most people (the sane ones, at least) think very differently from me and will want nothing to do with betting this awful team, but there are legitimate reasons to believe that the price on Buffalo is good enough for a play. At the listed odds, the Sabres have an implied win probability of 38%. I think that number is a little low against a mediocre team with really bad goaltending. Brian Elliott is expected to start for Philadelphia and he's sporting an .893 save percentage and a -8.17 Goals Saved Above Expectation in 18 games this season.

There's also a pretty good chance that this number rises a bit. Buffalo closed at +170 on Monday and blew a 3-0 lead as the entire hockey universe was watching, so I doubt there are enough people sick enough to back this team. I just happen to be one of them.

The Pick: Sabres +163

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