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The Buffalo Sabres have got plenty of tongues wagging with their 4-1 start to the 2022-23 NHL season. Not only were the Sabres winning, but they were doing it against some impressive competition. Buffalo went 3-1 on a four-game road trip through Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle. For a team that has been stuck in a rebuild since 2009, it’s a big deal that the Sabres are off and running. 

The Sabres will return home on Thursday where a different challenge awaits them: the long shot Montreal Canadiens.

Is the market giving Buffalo too much respect due to its hot start?

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Montreal Canadiens vs. Buffalo Sabres odds (BetMGM)

  • Canadiens: +140
  • Sabres: -165
  • Over/Under: 6.5

Canadiens vs. Sabres prediction

Like the Sabres, the Habs entered the 2022-23 with very little in the way of expectations. Montreal finished dead-last in the NHL with 55 points last season, but the Canadiens did show some modest improvements when Martin St. Louis took over behind the bench midway through the terrible campaign. 

Even with the boost provided by St. Louis, the Habs were pegged to finish last in the Atlantic Division and were the third-favorite behind Arizona and Chicago to finish with the worst record in the NHL in ’22-23. Judging by their start, it’s possible the Habs were a little underrated.

Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens
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A 3-4 record out of the gates isn’t going to jump off the page at you, but the Habs have collected a couple of notable wins over the Maple Leafs and Penguins, as well as a dominant performance against the Coyotes. 

Montreal’s statistical portfolio isn’t all that strong — the Habs rank 13th in shot attempt rate but 23rd in expected goal rate and 29th in high-danger scoring chance rate — but that’s to be expected with this team. Montreal is a young team that has plenty of mistakes in it and the Habs are not likely to tilt the ice night in and night out, but they don’t need to do that to have success.

The Canadiens are terrific at pouncing on mistakes and turning them into scoring chances going the other way. They have clinical finishers like Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Mike Hoffman, and Josh Anderson at the top of their roster. Montreal doesn’t need to out-chance a team to win, they usually do a good job of taking advantage of what’s given to them. It’s a good recipe for success for a team that may lack depth, but does have plenty of high-end talent.

Betting on the NHL?

And while the Sabres deserve credit for their head-turning road trip through the Northwest, they don’t profile well as a big favorite. When you’re laying this kind of juice in the NHL you want a team that can tilt the ice and get separation, but Buffalo isn’t there yet. The Sabres are 26th in the NHL in shot attempt share, 24th in expected goal rate and 24th in high-danger scoring chance rate.

Those kinds of numbers will eventually catch up to a team that lacks depth and game-breaking talent, but for now the Sabres are being propped up a bit by great goaltending and the third-best shooting percentage at 5-on-5. 

The Sabres hot start is worthy of respect, but they’re much more appealing as an underdog than a favorite. There’s still plenty of work to be done by this team before you can start trusting them at this number against a dangerous opponent.

Canadiens vs. Sabres pick 

Montreal Canadiens +140 (BetMGM)

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