Do we buy in on the Buffalo Sabres right now? Or, would that be the cruelest tease of the NHL season?
NHL betting enthusiasts are all trying to figure that out right now. The Sabres, who entered Thursday on a 10-game winning streak, are the talk of the league. Their 36 points are tied with Toronto for most in the NHL, and Sabre Mania is in full effect throughout the good city of Buffalo.
At +1300 with 888Sport in Stanley Cup betting, the Sabres have taken a huge jump from the start of the season. It was just a couple weeks ago that Buffalo was at +6500 over at SugarHouse. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of betting big on the Sabres right now.
Reasons to Bet the Sabres
Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner
Let’s start with the obvious. The young forward duo have been practically unstoppable all year and there’s little reason to believe that won’t continue. Eichel historically has been a half-point per-game better scorer after Christmas in his career, and he’s already on a pace for 96 points.
Skinner, the acquisition from Carolina who has 19 goals in 25 games, complements Eichel’s game very well on a wing. They’re young and hungry for playoff action, as neither player has ever played in the postseason in a combined 11 years of their careers.
Coach Phil Housley has found good success platooning Jason Pominville and Sam Reinhart on the top line, and veterans Kyle Okposo and Vladimir Sobotka have helped balance out the kids throughout the Buffalo lineup.
Hutton has been much better than advertised in goal. A 32-year-old journeyman free-agent signee from St. Louis, Hutton has a solid .920 saves percentage - and his numbers have been even better from the slot scoring areas in front. Sometimes, goalies take longer to fully bloom.
Remember Tim Thomas? He didn’t really find his game until his early-to-mid 30s, then won a Cup in Boston.
Scoring from the Defense
Rasmus Ristolainen and 2018 No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin add that critical second wave of attack, while youngster Jake McCabe is looking more and more like a good shutdown-type of D-man.
Reasons to Hold Off on the Sabres
While the Sabres are winning, they haven’t been dominant. In the 10-game streak, four wins came in overtime and three in a shootout. Is that sustainable? Not in the long term, no. Buffalo’s goal differential is just a plus-11 (79-68), while teams such as Toronto (plus-26), Tampa Bay (plus-22) win more easily.
Defense Lacks Depth
Marco Scandella is not a very good player and Zach Bogosian, the third overall pick of the 2008 NHL draft by Atlanta, just has not developed into the player scouts thought he would.
Uncertainty in Net
Can Hutton go the distance? The most games he’s played in one season of his career is 40, with Nashville in 2013-14. The Sabres are likely to want to play him 60-65 games. It’s not that his durability is a giant question mark. It’s just that he’s never proven he can truly carry a full load.
Sabres Betting Tip
My take on the Sabres: Don’t get too carried away just yet. That goal differential worries me too much. You can’t expect to win in OT/shootouts too much before the magic wears off. You can’t sink the 30-foot putts for too long.
Those who bet Buffalo at the much longer shot of a couple weeks ago, or at the start of the season, are probably feeling pretty good at the moment, however.