Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:30 PM EST.
7:05 PM EST. Aside from being the superior club by a wide margin, there are so many situational edges here for the Sabres that they must be played. For one, the Blackhawks have been off for 10 days while the Sabres have already played twice this week. The Sabres split their two games coming out of the break but they were the better team in both road games in Columbus (a 5-4 win) and in Dallas (a 1-0 loss). Prior to the break, Buffalo lost in Vancouver, 4-3 but they completely dominated the Canucks and out-chanced them, 29-13 while holding a significant possession edge too.
Corsi percentages and analytics are interesting and helpful but most publications will discuss a teams’ rankings for the entire year, which we trust to be a little misleading because it includes every game since October. There are plenty of teams that look much better (or worse) analytically than they actually are because their numbers were decent (or terrible) in October and November. We prefer to look at the last six weeks, which breaks the season down in 15-game segments and is a much better indicator of current form. In that regard, the Sabres rank 10th in Corsi For % during five-on-five play since December 15th while the Blackhawks rank 28th. In High Danger Chances For (HDCF), the Sabres rank 18th while the Blackhawks rank 28th and in High Danger Chances Against (HDCA), the Sabres rank 11th while the Blackhawks rank 30th out of 31 teams.
Finally, the Blackhawks will enter the second half dead in the water, as they are 17 points out of a playoff spot and virtually have a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs. They will relish in playing the role of the spoiler against some hated Western Conference rivals but not here against a team that they rarely see and have no bones to pick. Coming out of the break, we have to question the Blackhawks motivation for at least this one very meaningless game. On the other hand, the Sabres have plenty to play for. It’s been way too long since the Sabres were in a position to make the playoffs but here we are with 32 games to go and the Sabres do not have to leapfrog teams to get into the playoffs. They are the next team in line behind the current Wild Card holders, Columbus and Montreal. Buffalo is just three points behind the declining Blue Jackets and it is just five points behind the Canadiens with a game in hand. The Sabres just beat the Jackets in a huge game and that had to give them confidence that they can come through when it matters. This one matters too, as the Sabres season defining home stand starts here. This game is the first game of a seven-game home stand for the Sabres. They literally could not have handpicked a better team to face to get it started on a positive note. This home stand will go a very long way in determining whether or not the Sabres will miss or make the playoffs. It’s a rare day when the Blackhawks surrender less than 40 shots on net and we have to trust that Buffalo will treat this one like a playoff game because that’s how much of a defining moment it is for them. Sabres will outplay, out-shoot and out-chance the Blackhawks and if we get beat by a hot goaltender, it won’t be the first time but it will still be pretty sick.
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BUFFALO -1½ +158 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.16)