The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres run it back as they meet for the third time on Friday. Washington has won the first two games but will be missing several key players due to COVID-19. Buffalo will be favored per online sportsbook odds. Let’s get straight to the BetUS Capitals vs Sabres betting preview.
Buffalo is running out of time. The Sabres have yet to make the playoffs since drafting C Jack Eichel second overall behind Connor McDavid. Former Hart trophy winner LW Taylor Hall comes via stunning NHL news and Eichel and he are tearing up the league.
The Caps remain favorites within the new East Division per NHL odds, but will have to go through a crop of other contenders. There will be no easy games for Washington, even if they seemingly have Buffalo’s number. Can they do it shorthanded though?
Capitals vs Sabres
Sabres: Two-Man Show Continues
Entering Year Six of the Eichel era and the Sabres have yet to make the postseason. This is a make-or-break year for the franchise and they addressed this desperation by landing Hall along with other reinforcements, but things are still pretty grisly.
Eichel and Hall have six points each, but they’re all that Buffalo’s got. They’re starting to resemble the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl dynamic in Edmonton. The Sabres are inconsistent and are 1-3.
They have improved on their penalty kill. They ranked 30th in the league last season, but have only surrendered one goal in five tries. On 5-on-5, they’re actually a solid team and are seventh in corsi for percent (53%).
Buffalo’s goaltending tandem between Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton has been bad. Along with third-stringer Jonas Johansson, Buffalo has a 90.5 save percent during even strength, well below the 92.3 league average. If any of these goalies step up, the Sabres will be much better.
Capitals: Then COVID Happened
Washington is still a Stanley Cup contender per NHL odds but being in the “Division of Death” aka the East Division, the Caps have it tougher. They acquired longtime Bruins captain D Zdeno Chara and D Justin Schulz to help and have yet to lose in regulation after four games (2-0-2).
The Caps pride themselves as a powerful and physical team. Their sixth-best penalty-killing unit (82.6) from last season is a big reason why they can play rough. But being a heavily penalized team will hurt them in the long run.
Thanks to COVID, Washington will be without Alex Ovechkin, C Evgeni Kuznetsov, and starting netminder Ilya Samsonov. G Vitek Vanecek has played better anyhow, posting a 90.2 save percent versus Samsonov’s 86.8 percent although they have identical records.
The Capitals already beat the Sabres twice, but face a steeper test being short-handed here. They will still be the tougher and more aggressive team and have the better netminder.
Sabres Edge Short-Handed Caps
I tend to bet on the bigger and more powerful team in hockey by today’s standards. Washington isn’t just a bruising team, the Caps have plenty of skill, and that makes them one of the best teams.
But Washington is missing the best scorer and center, plus beating a team three straight times is tough to do even if you are the superior team. The Sabres put on a Jekyll-and-Hyde act all too often. They can blow out a team in one night then get blanked and dominated in the next.
It all depends on which version of Buffalo shows up. If their offensively dysfunctional self appears, Washington has a chance to edge them out here. But if they’re clicking, they might just blow out the Caps.
The Sabres will have enough offense to keep them in the game and Washington losing three key skaters will be a difference-maker, especially when one of those skaters is Ovechkin.
Buffalo should win but it’s hard to trust the Sabres. Instead, find the Capitals puck line +2.0 at BetUS sportsbook and bet that at -150, which is generous. Vanecek will be solid in goal and the Caps just have enough to make this a game.