Its Christmas season and that means a mad rush for people to buy last minute gifts for loved ones, and a compressed NHL schedule so the teams can take a few well-deserved days off.
Tonight there is a matchup which at the beginning of the season may not have looked like one to circle on the calendar, but today it pits the current Stanley Cup Champions against a young team of up-and-comers that seems to show no fear at all. Buffalo and Washington did play recently (less than a week ago, actually), so that gives both teams a fresh scouting report.
Washington won that game 4-3 in a shootout at home and gets the Sabres at home again in a scheduling quirk. Let’s take a look at this matchup in a little more detail.
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The following odds are courtesy of live odds feed:
Why the Sabres Will Win
Remember when we were talking about the Sabres a few weeks ago during their 10-game winning streak? There were many hot takes about the new-look Sabres and how they had finally turned the corner. Well, if they turned a corner, they ran into an oncoming truck -5 straight losses (albeit three in OT) before righting the ship a little bit.
The Sabres seem to be the kind of team that is just good enough to hang around in a game, with the talent to get hem at least into extra time or a shootout. Carter Hutton remains the starter in Buffalo, and despite the losses recently, he has been playing well, facing a barrage of shots along the way.
The top line of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner seems to be in on half the goals the team scores, which is what is keeping the Sabres in every game.
They came close to beating the Capitals in their home rink only a few days ago and fueled by that disappointment, the Sabres will have to jump out to an early lead and hold on for dear life against this potent Washington attack.
Why the Capitals Will Win
Washington has really hit their stride and in the last 15 games look very much like the team that won hockey’s biggest prize last June. They have been sparked in part by the return of Tom Wilson, who picked up right where he left off before his suspension both as an offensive threat and a huge pest.
The Caps are dealing with a nagging set of injuries to T.J. Oshie which is causing some juggling on the top 2 lines, but players like Jakub Vrana are picking up the slack very nicely. However, if the Caps are going to win this game, they will need the ongoing contribution from their future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin.
Ovie is on a tear recently, including back-to-back hat tricks. A couple of goals from him and some better play from Braden Holtby, who has had a relatively average year by his standards, will push the Capitals into the win column.
Our Pick for Buffalo at Washington
It is surprising to see these teams so close in the standings, and while there is more than half a season to go, we are thrilled to see newcomers like Buffalo making a push up the standings. However, after coming off a tough loss to Pittsburgh at home on Wednesday, we expect the Caps to come out flying here.
It will still be a close game, so we are going with the money line on this one.
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