We have just a couple of days left here in what has been an extremely profitable month of March.
Let’s make sure we bear down and make sure we finish the month strong before the home stretch to the NHL season in April and early May!
- Season Record: 28-26
- Units: +1.49
Now, let’s check out this Flyers vs. Sabres NHL pick and see if we can get our week started on the right note!
Flyers vs. Sabres Betting Odds
- Flyers (-191)
- Sabres (+172)
- Flyers -1.5 (+120)
- Sabres +1.5 (-140)
- Over 6 (+108)
- Under 6 (-119)
Flyers vs. Sabres NHL Pick Breakdown
The Flyers’ offense has been a top-half group all season long as they currently sit 13th while averaging 3.06 goals per game on the season while the power play sits right in the middle of the league at 15th with a 20.7% clip.
That said, there’s also some concerning aspects about this group if we dig a little deeper into the underlying metrics.
At 5v5 this season, the Flyers rank 26th in all three of scoring chances for/60, high-danger chances for/60 and expected goals for/60, according to Natural Stat Trick. Their 2.54 goals/60 at 5v5 this season is well above their 2.01 expected mark, so there’s little doubt that this group has scored more even-strength goals than they deserve to this point, even if their offense has already regressed over the last little while.
They snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over the Rangers on Saturday afternoon, but managed just two goals in doing so. They’ve now averaged an even 2.00 goals per game over their last seven contests.
That’s not to say the personnel isn’t there. In fact, the Flyers boast three lines capable of generating offense, but for whatever reason, the team is generating opportunities at a bottom-five rate this season. That said, it’s a healthy group at the moment and one that will look to break out against a porous Sabres back end tonight.
Here’s the major issue with the Flyers this season, or at least one of them as their defense has underperformed badly, especially of late.
For the season, the Flyers have plummeted all the way to 30th with 3.58 goals against per game on the season while their penalty kill also sits 30th with a brutal 72.8% mark. They have long been a below-average defense this season, but have taken that to a whole new level of late.
Prior to Saturday’s win, the Flyers averaged 5.22 goals against per game over their previous nine. Their well-documented 17 goals against across two games against the Rangers didn’t help the cause, but the team also allowed at least five goals in five of their previous nine games before bouncing back on Saturday.
That said, their advanced metrics aren’t nearly as bad. At 5v5, they rank 15th in all of scoring chances against/60, high-danger chances against/60 and expected goals against/60. However, their 3.27 goals against/60 at 5v5 this season is the second-worst mark in the NHL and well over a goal worse than their 2.12 expected mark, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see this even-strength defense perform better down the stretch.
That said, from an eye-test standpoint, it certainly appears this defense misses Matt Niskanen who surprisingly announced his retirement in the offseason. Robert Hagg is also injured at the moment and the team has seen a step in the wrong direction from players such as Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers.
We’ll see if they can make it two consecutive stellar defensive efforts in this one tonight.
The defense hasn’t been great, but the Flyers’ goaltending this season has been flat-out atrocious, mostly on the back of Carter Hart who owns a ghastly 4.04 GAA and .869 Sv% across his 22 appearances on the season, somehow winning eight of those 20 decisions.
That said, the Flyers announced they are going to give Hart some practise time this week to figure his game out, so it’s veteran Brian Elliott getting the nod after a solid effort on Saturday against the Rangers.
Elliott turned aside 24 of the 25 shots he faced in that one, but his month of March has also been ugly. For the month, Elliott owns a 3.60 GAA and .845 Sv% across nine March outings, going just 3-3-1 in that time. We knew regression was coming on the heels of a 1.82 GAA and .929 Sv% from February, not to mention a 2.22 GAA and .932 Sv% in four January outings.
For the season, the 35-year-old owns a 2.83 GAA and .892 Sv% across 13 starts and 17 appearances, but yet is 8-4-1. Unfortunately, his work this season is largely similar to what he’s produced in each of the previous two seasons, so a notable bounce back from Elliott from a shaky month of March moving forward is anything but guaranteed.
That said, we’ll see if he can build on a rebound effort from his last time out.
There isn’t much that needs to be detailed from the Sabres’ perspective as their now 17-game winless stretch has been well-documented across the league. That said, the offense has been the main culprit.
The Sabres now rank dead last with an even 2.00 goals per game on the season despite a power play that ranks 12th at 23.3%. That power play has steadily regressed as the season has moved along, although they did break a lengthy power-play drought with a tally in their 3-2 loss to the Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
The Sabres have managed more than two goals in just one of their last nine games, although they did score four in their most recent meeting with the Flyers back on March 9.
The underlying metrics paint a better picture, however. They do rank 29th in scoring chances for/60, but up to 15th in high-danger chances for/60 and 24th in expected goals for/60 at 5v5 this season. Of course, those rankings are nothing to write home about, but considering their 1.48 goals/60 at 5v5 is well under their 2.04 expected mark, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see the offense perhaps go on a little run here, even if it’s without Jack Eichel. I mean, that 1.48 goals/60 mark at 5v5 is by far the lowest mark in the league behind the 30th-ranked Detroit Red Wings and their 1.90 mark.
Add in the clearly capable power play and don’t be shocked if these Sabres find their offense a little bit moving forward.
The Sabres’ defense hasn’t been the main issue during the losing streak, but it hasn’t exactly been stellar, either.
For the season, Buffalo ranks 29th with 3.52 goals against per game and 18th with a 77.9% mark on the penalty kill, so clearly they haven’t been great. That said, the metrics paint a somewhat prettier picture with the defense as well.
At 5v5, the Sabres rank 21st in scoring chances against/60, 22nd in high-danger chances against/60 and 22nd again in expected goals against/60 at 5v5 this season. Additionally, the Sabres have surrendered 2.86 goals per 60 minutes this season, a number well above their 2.27 expected mark. So, like the Flyers, the Sabres have allowed far more offense at 5v5 than it looks like they’ve deserved to this point in the season.
Still, they’ve allowed at least three goals against in 10 straight games and at least four in seven of the 10. They’ve averaged 4.3 goals against per game during that time, so this is still a defense looking for its best game in some time.
Here’s where things could turn around for the better for Buffalo.
After missing a month’s work of action with a lower-body injury, netminder Linus Ullmark returned to action on Saturday against the Bruins and turned aside 33 of the 36 shots he faced in that one, good for a solid .917 Sv%. He stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced in the first two periods before surrendered a pair of third-period goals to extend the losing streak to 17 games.
That said, Ullmark missed much of that losing streak while on the shelf, and he’s been very good when healthy this season. Ullmark owns a 2.49 GAA and .918 Sv% across his 13 starts on the season, going 5-5-2 in the process. Clearly, the team’s woes this season are anything but his fault and while the team received awful goaltending from the now-injured Carter Hutton and since-traded third-stringer Jonas Johansson, their odds of snapping their lengthy winless drought appears to be in much better hands with Ullmark between the pipes.
Flyers vs. Sabres NHL Pick
Call me crazy, folks, but I believe the streak ends tonight.
Sure, the offense and defense have struggled mightily of late. However, the same can be said for the Flyers, and it’s the Sabres who indeed hold the goaltending advantage in this one, not to mention the special-teams advantage as well.
Philly has scored more than deserved it appears, but there isn’t an offense that’s faced worse luck than the Sabres to this point. Facing this Flyers defense and a scuffling Elliott of late appears to be a good opportunity for this offense to get off the long-standing schneid.
You know what? I’d bet anything the Sabres win another game this season. It’s going to happen. After losing 17 in a row, this is a matchup I can hang my hat on at these odds, so give me the huge home underdogs to finally get back into the win column tonight.