My early-season NHL results have been disastrous as I’m getting my cold stretch out of the way early.
I had the Leafs to take down the Rangers in regulation last night, and while they dropped a 2-1 overtime decision, the play on the ice went as I had expected.
The Leafs not only out-shot the Rangers 41-23 overall, but at 5v5 they out-shot them 29-17, earned 60.71% of the scoring chances, 60% of the high-danger chances and a 63.51% share of the expected goals. Their one goal at 5v5 was well below their 2.34 expected 5v5 goals, but once again they were unable to finish and my one concern in the form of Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin needed stole this one from us.
I’ll continue to follow the research as we look into a Canucks vs. Sabres NHL Pick from Vancouver!
Canucks vs. Sabres Betting Odds
Odds courtesy of BetOnline
|Canucks||-157||-1.5 (+165)||-115||Over 6 (+105)|
|Sabres||+142||+1.5 (-190)||+205||Under 6 (-116)|
Offense and Defense
It’s been a slow start for a Canucks offense that struggled through a long-term Elias Pettersson injury and a serious bout of team-wide COVID outbreak a season ago, finishing in the league’s bottom five overall offenses in the process.
Although Brock Boeser has missed the team’s first three games of the season and is questionable to return tonight, Vancouver has scored just seven goals in those three games, good for a 2.33 goals per game average that’s going to need a significant rise if the team is to claim a postseason spot back in the Pacific Division, perhaps the weakest division in the league.
It’s extremely early to be taking underlying data and early-season results to heart, but we’ll note that the Canucks haven’t been generating many opportunities at even strength as Natural Stat Trick has them ranked 23rd in terms of high-danger chances for/60 at 5v5 and 21st in terms of expected goals for/60 in those situations.
The Canucks offense has claimed 54.23% of the shots for at 5v5 and nearly 52% of the shot attempts at 5v5, but they’ll need to get around the net more to generate some more actual goals.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) October 16, 2021
As for the back end, it was certainly the area that needed to improve most after a dismal performance that saw them rank 26th in overall defense a season ago. The Canucks also sported some of the league’s worst underlying data in terms of high-danger chances allowed and expected (and actual) goals allowed at 5v5.
Their 19th and 20th respectively in terms of high-danger chances allowed and expected goals against/60 so far this season, and it’s a new look on the back end as Quinn Hughes and Tyler Myers are the lone two blueliners remaining from last years club while Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tucker Poolman, Jack Rathbone and Kyle Burroughs are the new defense corps in Van City.
With nine goals allowed in three games, the defense will look to tighten up some in this one tonight.
Don’t look now but the Buffalo Sabres are a clean 2-0-0 as they have tallied six goals in their two games on the season, although five of those did come in the season-opening beatdown of the Montreal Canadiens before they edged the Coyotes 2-1 in a shootout.
A three goals-per-game average is an awfully lofty expectation for a group that is about as watered-down a lineup as you’ll see in the league this season. Dylan Cozens, Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner are expected to do much of the heavy lifting for the team up front this season after Sam Reinhart was traded to the Florida Panthers and we all know the Jack Eichel stalemate at this point.
Given them some credit for now, however, as they’ve scored those six goals in two games while sitting in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring chances for/60 and high-danger chances for/60 at 5v5 this season. They do sit 23rd in expected goals for/60, however, which would appear to be a more accurate figure relative to their personnel up front, but we’ll see if they’re able to get closer to their season-opening offensive production before largely being shutdown by the Coyotes in game two.
It’s the back end that is the biggest surprise. The Sabres have allowed just two goals in two games and rank second in the league in terms of high-danger scoring chances against/60 in that time. Only the perennially-stout Boston Bruins defense has been better in that department in the season’s infancy.
For good measure, their 26 shots against per game is the third-lowest mark in the league, so the early results on a new-look Sabres back end have been impressive, although the competition has not been stiff in the winless Montreal Canadiens and low-octane Arizona Coyotes.
With Rasmus Dahlin, Colin Miller and Robert Hagg the most seasoned of Sabres d-men, perhaps it’s their strong suit. Will Butcher, Jacob Bryson and Mark Pysyk form the remainder of the group, but I’d venture a guess and say the results are set for a big turn of events.
While the Canucks should score enough to win this season, the blueline isn’t exactly their strong point. That means that Thatcher Demko is going to have to be very good for this team to go anywhere this season, and he’s been solid in two starts this season, turning aside 63 of 69 shots, good for a .913 Sv% and 0.3 goals saved above average (GSAA), as per Hockey Reference.
I have Demko as a sneaky Vezina candidate this season, and I think he could get into the conversation the same way Connor Hellebuyck won it two seasons ago. He plays behind a weak back end and will easily be the team’s MVP if he posts well-above-average figures.
Demko posted a healthy .915 Sv% in 35 games last season behind a Canucks defense that ranked in the bottom two in high-danger chances against and expected goals against/60 at 5v5. His 8.24 goals saved above average ranked 10th in the league among goaltenders with more than 10 appearances.
There’s reasons to be bullish on the Canucks netminder this season to be sure.
The Sabres’ goaltending situation looks awfully sketchy with 40-year-old Craig Anderson set to take the strong side of a platoon with Dustin Tokarski very inexperienced at the NHL level.
Anderson has started one of the team’s two games so far, turning aside 30 of the 31 Canadiens shots he saw in the team’s season opener. He saved 1.83 goals above average in that one alone.
Can he keep it up? He did turn in a 2.13 GAA and .915 Sv% in two starts and four appearances last season with the Capitals, but his last notable sample was a 3.25 GAA And .902 Sv% across 34 games with the Senators two years back as well as a 3.51 GAA and .903 Sv% three years back with Ottawa.
All due respect to the veteran who has enjoyed a very nice and lengthy NHL career, but the confidence level cannot be high for Anderson over a larger sample.
Without Pettersson for much of last season, the Canucks’ power play fell all the way to 25th with a 17.4% clip. Compare that to a fourth-ranked 24.2% mark from the 2019-20 season and you can see just how disappointing that result was, although not complete unexpected given the situation the team found itself in.
If you’re asking me, I am leaning much closer to their 2019-20 result this time around. They connected on 25% of their power-play opportunities this season without Boeser in the lineup. In other words, they’ve gone 3 for 12 on the season so far despite being held goalless in three opportunities in Detroit on Saturday in Detroit.
Boeser is going to do nothing but improve that power play, a group that contains some serious talent that has proven itself as a deadly group when at full strength.
As for the penalty kill, it appears to be a work in progress.
They were subpar with a 79.8% clip that tied for 17th last season and they’ve allowed a power-play goal in each of their three games so far this season, going just 4 for 7 here in the early going. I’m not terribly surprised considering the personnel and the absence of Travis Hamonic certainly does not do this group any favors
The Buffalo power play was a strong suit for a portion of the 2020-21 season and they came out of the gate red-hot in that department this season by going 3 for 6 against the Habs while going 1 for 2 against the Coyotes, good for a 50% clip across eight chances here in the early going.
Don’t be surprised if they boast a solid power play this season as the little offensive talent they have can be condensed into a productive man advantage. Rasmus Dahlin is obviously a fantastic offensive talent on the back end and Victor Olofsson has been a power-play weapon so far in his NHL career.
We’ll see if Skinner, Tage Thompson and Rasmus Asplund can hold up their end of the bargain on that top unit, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this group finished in the top-half of the league.
The Sabres penalty kill could be a different story despite a 6 for 6 start to the season. This group finished 26th with a 77.7% mark last season, and the personnel hasn’t exactly improved much. Perhaps new coaching can help, but with the current goaltending situation I don’t have high hopes for this group this season.
- Canucks are 2-5 in their last seven games as a road favorite
- Canucks are 2-5 in their last seven games vs. the Eastern Conference
- Under is 6-2 in the Canucks’ last eight road games
- Under is 4-1 in the Canucks’ last five games as a road favorite
- Sabres are 5-0 in their last five home games
- Sabres are 7-19 in their last 26 games as a home underdog
- Over is 4-0-1 in the Sabres’ last five games as a home underdog
- Over is 4-1-1 in the Sabres’ last six home games
Head to Head
- Canucks are 7-2 in the last nine meetings
- Home team is 19-7-1 in the last 27 meetings
- Underdog is 5-2 in the last seven meetings
- Over is 10-1-2 in the last 13 meetings in Buffalo
Canucks vs. Sabres NHL Pick
Good on Buffalo for making us look bad through two games, but this is one the Canucks need to have if they believe they’re a playoff team.
I see a notable advantage on offense and between the pipes on the Vancouver side, and despite this being their fourth straight road game to start the season and the Sabres’ third straight home game to kick it off, this is a winnable game for the visitors.
Keep in mind the Canucks dominated the Red Wings their last time out and pumped Thomas Greiss with 41 shots while their 39.3 shots per game in the season’s early going is the third-highest mark in the league.
I expect this offense to take over while Demko stymies the Sabres en route to a Vancouver win.