Washington Capitals (0-0) at Buffalo Sabres (0-0)
NHL Hockey: Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 7:00 pm (KeyBank Center)
The Line: Buffalo Sabres +115 / Washington Capitals -135 --- Over/Under: 6.5 Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
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The Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres meet in NHL action from the KeyBank Center on Thursday night.
The Washington Capitals come into the 2021 season looking to take another step forward after winning their 5th straight Metropolitan division title with a record of 41-20-8 before the league paused in mid-March due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Capitals would end up taking on the New York Islanders in the first round and would be taken down by the Isles in five games, ultimately resulting in the somewhat surprising firing of head coach Todd Reirden. The Caps still kept themselves in the higher tiers of the coaching hierarchy by bringing in Peter Laviolette and the cabinets are still pretty full, with Alexander Ovechkin returning after putting up 67 points including a team-high 48 goals while John Carlson also returns after leading the Caps with 75 points including 60 assists. Nicklas Backstrom, Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov all had 50+ points and Washington fortified the roster with the additions of Conor Sheary, Justin Schultz and Zdeno Chara in the offseason. Ilya Samsonov appears to be the guy in goal for Washington after Braden Holtby left for Vancouver, but Samsonov had the better year, going 16-6-2 with a 2.55 GAA but chose not to participate in the bubble. Samsonov will likely be backed up by the arriving Craig Anderson, or by spot starter Pheonix Copley at times throughout the year.
The Buffalo Sabres will be out to bounce back from yet another disappointing season after finishing the year with a record of 30-31-8 and the season being shortened resulted in Buffalo missing the playoffs for the 9th straight season. That’s disappointing considering the Sabres got off to a 5-0-1 start and 9-2-1 start at the end of October before the wheels fell off in November and going forward. Jack Eichel will hope to add to his team-leading 78 points after putting up 36 goals and 42 assists and the arrival of Taylor Hall is sure to help with both and potentially push both right into the conversation for the Art Ross and Hart trophies. The Sabres also did a lot of reshuffling with the Sabres by bringing in Eric Staal, Cody Eakin, Tage Thompson and Tobias Rieder all to bolster the scoring for the upcoming season, hoping to replace the losses felt by the departures of Wayne Simmonds, Dominik Kahun, Johan Larsson and Marcus Johansson. Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton will be expected to split the workload for the Sabres in goal like they did in 2019-20, with Ullmark logging a 2.69 GAA and .915 save percentage. It’s a tough year for the Sabres in such a tough division with the reshuffling of the divisions but the talent is there for Buffalo to make a move, it’s all about execution now.
Washington is 1-4 in their last 5 road games and 0-5 in their last 5 games as a favorite while the under is 6-2-1 in their last 9 games overall. Buffalo is 1-6 in their last 7 games overall and 5-1 in their last 6 home games while the under is 3-0-1 in their last 4 games as an underdog. Washington is 12-4 in the last 16 meetings between these two teams.
It’s hard to say what we’ll really see in the first game of the year, but while both teams retooled, it’s still Washington that’s in a far better place than Buffalo as this Sabres team has to fulfill expectations that were missed by a fair margin last year and it’s going to take a bit for the new pieces to mesh, more so than other teams because guys like Taylor Hall will play such a pivotal role in the lineup. There’s just a lot more continuity in Washington’s team coming into the year, and the price isn’t that bad on the Capitals so I’ll lay the juice with Washington in this spot.