The Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals meet for the front end of another two-game series this weekend. Following Friday night, the Sabres and Capitals will turn their attention to Sunday afternoon in the same building at Capital One Arena.
Sunday will mark the fourth time the Sabres and Capitals have played since the start of the season. They opened the season on January 14 with a 6-4 edge for the Capitals. Carter Hutton had a poor showing in that one, as he allowed 5 goals on 27 shots for a 0.815 save percentage.
Hutton has been able to stabilize since then, but was injured recently in a 3-0 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. Before leaving the game, Hutton made 19 saves on 20 shots. Third stringer Jonas Johansson entered the game to allow a goal on 9 shots. Hutton will not travel with the Sabres to Washington, but they are expected to have Linus Ullmark back on Friday.
Ullmark left the team for personal reasons, though what that reason was had been kept under wraps. It turned out that Ullmark’s father passed away. He is expected to be back in Washington against the Capitals. With Hutton getting injured, it’s especially important that Ullmark returns between the pipes. Johansson hasn’t passed the test as an NHL goaltender yet.
If they had to rely on Johansson, the Sabres would be in trouble. Ullmark gives them a much better chance against the Capitals. It’s been a tough start for the Sabres this season. They threw money at Taylor Hall to keep Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart happy, but there are more holes to fill on this roster. The Sabres go into Friday with a record of 1-3-0 and 2 points.
Buffalo is tied with the New York Rangers at the bottom of the East Division. It’s too early to say the Sabres will start there, but they’re in a tough division. I wouldn’t be too surprised. The Capitals are off to a 2-0-2 start with 6 points in the 2020-21 campaign. After sweeping the Sabres, they lost a couple of hard-fought outings against the Penguins, 4-3 and 5-4 in overtime. Head below for our free Sabres vs. Capitals pick on January 22, 2021.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Washington Capitals NHL Betting Odds:
Sabres vs. Capitals Prediction:
The Capitals have been getting a plethora of scoring chances this season. Alex Ovechkin has been off to a decent start, with a goal and 4 assists. He’s not red-hot, but it might be a matter of time before Ovechkin gets going and can’t stop scoring. When Ovechkin is in a zone, he can be difficult to slow down for weeks. Their offence wasn’t to blame for the two losses against Pittsburgh, one in a shootout and the other in overtime.
Ilya Samsanov and Vitek Vanecek both could have been better in the crease for the Caps. Note that Samsonov, along with Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov will be unavailable for at least the next four games. The coronavirus has already infiltrated the Capitals’ locker room early in the season. I suppose if you want to look at the positive, it’s better now than later when the games mean more.
The Capitals still have talent with T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, and Tom Wilson up front. They can lose Ovechkin and Kuznetsov and still manage against a team like the Sabres. Against a superior team, then yeah, they’re going to want to have Ovechkin and Kuznetsov in the lineup. I’m more worried about no Orlov on the blue line and no Samsonov between the pipes. With Samsonov out, 25-year-old Vitek Vanecek is expected to get the call.
Vanecek was in net in the 5-4 overtime loss against the Penguins on Tuesday. He allowed 5 goals on 30 shots for a 0.833 save percentage. The rookie has a 2.98 GAA and 0.902 save percentage through two outings in his young career. Washington is currently 23rd in the league with 3.3 goals against per game. They’ve looked vulnerable with Samsonov and Orlov, so can’t see an improvement tonight.
I like what the Caps did defensively in their 2-1 win over the Sabres on January 15, but it was a different game a couple of days earlier in the 6-4 win for the Caps. Vaneck looked good in that one, though expect the Sabres to make adjustments and frustrate the rookie in the rematch. With Ovi and Kuznetsov out, there appears to be value on the OVER at just 5.5. The sixth best offence in the league should still be able to have a productive night. I like a 4-2 final score.