Capitals vs. Sabres NHL Pick – January 15, 2021

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A 2-2 night last night saw us take a minuscule loss on the night as we enter day three of the 2021 NHL season.

We dropped our Rangers moneyline pick with authority. The Islanders scored a trio of third-period goals and suffocated a high-octane Rangers offense all night long, posting a 4-0 shutout win and dealing us a loss at -106.

We also dropped our Under 5.5 pick between the Wild and Kings. We had a decent shot with a 3-2 L.A score nearing the midway mark of the third period, but the Wild would tie it up and win it in overtime by 4-3 count, handing us a loss at -113.

Our first win of the night came in Edmonton were Connor McDavid notched a hat trick in a 5-2 Oilers win that went Over the 6-goal total. We notched that one at -130.

Finally, we hit a nice plus-money winner with the Golden Knights -1.5 on the puckline over the visiting Anaheim Ducks. it was actually a 2-2 score into the third, but newly-minted captain Mark Stone scored an early third-period goal, Max Pacioretty followed with one of hiw own midway through the period and Alex Tuch’s empty-netter salted away a 5-2 Vegas win. We hit that pick at nice +105 odds.

Now, we’ll turn our attention to tonight’s five-game schedule and take a look at the Capitals vs. Sabres in the second half of a back-to-back from Buffalo!

  • Season Record: 3-2
  • Units: +0.91

Capitals vs. Sabres Betting Odds

  • Capitals (-129)
  • Sabres (+117)
  • Capitals -1.5 (+175)
  • Sabres +1.5 (-205)
  • Over 6 (-101)
  • Under 6 (-109)

Capitals vs. Sabres NHL Pick Breakdown

Capitals

Offense

Offenses around the league have been working over some rusty defenses and the Capitals certainly followed that trend by hanging six goals on the Sabres last night, albeit with the help of an empty-netter.

Nonetheless, the team’s elite top-six up front showed out in this one Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie tallied first-period markers and John Carlson — last year’s defenseman points leader — adding one in the second period while Jakub Vrana’s third-period tally stood as the game-winner.

Backstrom, Oshie, Vrana and Alex Ovechkin combined for eight points in the top six while Carlson notched a pair of his own.

It’s a group that powered the Caps to a second-place offensive finish last season, but the good news this time around is that their power play got on the board early after the Caps somehow fell to 17th with a 19.4% power play clip a season ago. Washington went 1 for 2 on the man advantage last night.

At 5v5 last season, the Capitals finished sixth in expected goals for/60, scoring chances for/60 and high-danger chances for/60, as per Natural Stat Trick. It certainly appears they deserved their second-place finish.

However, it stands to reason this offense could be even better with the help of a power play that I cannot see finishing as low as 17th again. In fact, I’d be shocked if this wasn’t a top 10 power play this season considering the talent level on board.

In sum, offense is not a worry with this team once again this season.

Defense

The defense saw some turnover in the offseason after the club finished in the middle of the pack last season, but also with a sixth-ranked 82.6% penalty kill.

They were mostly a middle-of-the-pack 5v5 defense according to the advanced metrics, however they also ranked 26th in high-danger chances against/60.

That said, there’s new bodies on board. For one, they re-signed defenseman Brendan Dillon after acquiring him at last year’s trade deadline. Due to the season-ending Achilles injury to right-side blueliner Michal Kempny, the team signed former Pittsburgh Penguin Justin Schultz and made headlines by adding long-time Bruins captain Zdeno Chara late in the offseason.

With Carlson, Dmitri Orlov and Nick Jensen the three returnees along with three newcomers, there was a 50% turnover in the team’s blueline in the offseason so we’ll give them time to add some sample size to find out what type of group this team has.

Goaltending

The Caps handed the goaltending keys to 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov while letting Braden Holtby walk in free agency, and the young Russian notched the win in last night’s season opener. That said, he wasn’t exactly stellar in allowing four goals on just 22 shots, good for an .846 Sv%.

The question now is whether he gets the start on back-to-back nights in this one, or if 25-year-old rookie Vitek Vanecek makes his NHL debut. You might remember that Henrik Lundqvist — signed to a one-year deal to support Samsonov — announced he cannot play this season due to a heart condition that required open-heart surgery. For what it’s worth, King Henrik was discharged from the hospital today. Good news.

The club signed veteran Craig Anderson to a one-year deal, but he resided on the taxi squad at the moment.

Samsonov enjoyed a productive rookie season as Holtby’s backup last season, turning in a 2.55 GAA and .913 Sv% in 26 games. He was excellent for much of the season, but struggled big-time down the stretch.

If Vanecek gets the nod, the 2014 second-rounder will make his NHL debut after spending the last four seasons with the Caps’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears. In Hershey last season, Vanecek worked to a productive 2.26 GAA and .917 Sv% in 31 games.

It’s a nice story, actually, as Vanecek has worked his way up the organizational ladder from the ECHL’s South Carolina Sting Rays in 2015-16 before four season in Hershey. Tonight could be a special night for the 25-year-old Czech.

Sabres

Offense

It took Taylor Hall less than a half-period to make his presence felt in Buffalo as he connected for a power play goal and later added a third-period assist to his ledger.

Hall was signed to a one-year, $8M in Buffalo as the top free-agent forward on the market. Jack Eichel finally has a star winger on his flank, but Hall finally has a superstar pivot as his center, something he didn’t have in his stints with the Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes. Before this year, he was largely a one-man show.

The Sabres’ offense looked good in tallying four goals of their own last night. They managed to make it a 5-4 game before see the Caps ice it with that empty-better with about a minute to go.

It’s an offense that desperately needs to improve if they are to have any chance in the difficult East division. It’s also an offense that was injected with some center ice depth in the form of Eric Staal and Cody Eakin. Staal could miss this one, however, after taking an elbow to the jaw from the Caps’ Nic Dowd. He’s listed as a game-time decision.

They finished 21st on offense last season and 20th on the power play, but it appears both areas should certainly improve with Hall in two as well as some depth that has really lengthened this Buffalo forward group.

Defense

Like just about every defense we’ve seen to this point over the first two nights of the NHL season, the Sabres’ defense struggled in their opener.

It’s an identical defense to last season. The top-six of Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Brandon Montour, Colin Miller, Jake McCabe and Henri Jokiharju all returns, so we at least have an idea of how this group could perform.

They certainly didn’t fare well last season, ranking 22nd in overall defense and 30th with a 74.6% mark on the penalty kill.

That said, at 5v5, they also ranked ninth in scoring chances against/60 and 11th in high-danger chances against/60. Their penalty kill obviously did not help their end result, but this group wasn’t too shabby at even strength a season ago.

As they get their legs under them, it could be an improved group on the back of an offense that should be spending more time in the offensive zone with puck possession, something they struggled with last season.

Goaltending

After Carter Hutton struggled in allowing five goals on 22 shots (.815 Sv%) in the opener, Linus Ullmark is your starting netminder tonight for the home side.

Ullmark showed flashes of No. 1 potential last season, working to a solid 2.69 GAA and .915 Sv% across 34 appearance, greatly outplaying Hutton in the process.

He’ll be the 1A option in the Sabres’ crease tonight and will look to keep developing at the NHL level despite being 27 years of age at this point. He has just 97 games of NHL experience under his belt, working to a 2.81 GAA and .911 Sv% in that time.

However, his work from last season was a major step forward after he scuffled to a 3.11 GAA and .905 Sv% last season, so there’s plenty of optimism that Ullmark can continue to improve, this time on a more well-rounded Sabres team.

Capitals vs. Sabres NHL Pick

It was a competitive game in Buffalo last night, an entertaining matchup that obviously featured plenty of offense.

Shutting down this Capitals high-powered offense is always going to be a difficult task, especially for defenses and goaltenders that have largely struggled in the early going. Offenses around the league are just well ahead of defenses at the moment.

That said, the Sabres proved their have an offense of their own this season and enjoyed success against this new-look Capitals blueline.

I’m well aware that Washington holds the offensive advantage, but I’m not so sure in the other two departments.

Defensively, the Sabres were just 0.05 goals against per game worse than the Capitals last season. It’s a younger group to be sure, but to me the defenses are a wash in this matchup.

Where I’m looking most is between the pipes. We know Ullmark is starting for Buffalo, and he’s proven to be the better of the two Sabres goaltenders at this juncture.

DOESN’T MATTER
What we don’t know is who is going for Washington, but either way I am going to target whoever it may be. If Samsonov starts on back-to-back nights, that’s fine. It’s a well known statistical fact that goaltenders generally struggle in the second half of back-to-back games. Samsonov also struggled last night. If it’s Vanecek, that’s fine too. I have no problem targeting a young goaltender making his NHL debut. Of course, it’s also well known that goaltenders aren’t at their best in their first season.

So, while containing this Capitals offense is priority No. 1, I believe the Sabres are going to generate plenty of their own given the Caps’ goaltending conundrum that could rear its ugly head throughout the season.

Give me the home underdogs on the moneyline tonight.

The Bet
SABRES
+117
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Brenton Kemp / Author

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.