NHL Odds: How Bettors Can Exploit Surprising Sabres, Lightning

Buffalo has enjoyed a stronger start than Tampa Bay


October 25, 2021

We’ve got a larger Monday slate than usual with seven games. Let’s see where there is value in the betting market.

Tamba Bay Lighting Vs. Buffalo Sabres
Sabres +1.5 (-176) | 4-Star Rating Out of 5
Under 6.0 (-106) | 3-Star Rating Out of 5

It’s amazing how quickly things can change to start the season. Just look at these two teams, for example.

The Buffalo Sabres looked like the worst team in the league on paper heading into the season. They were not expected to be competitive in most games they played this season — let alone win. A 3-1-1 start to the campaign has turned a few heads around the league, and it wasn’t just through a string of good luck.

The Sabres’ underlying numbers are solid, as their adjusted expected goal percentage is the fourth-best in the league. This has been driven by their defense allowing the third-fewest expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five play.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, on the other hand, have not got off to a great start. They allowed six goals in each of their first two games, and their record sits at 2-2-1. To make matters worse, they lost star winger Nikita Kucherov for the foreseeable future. Tampa has not created the same offense so far, recording just 2.12 expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Buffalo could keep them in check tonight.

There are two ways we can exploit this from a betting perspective.

With Buffalo playing strong defensively and Tampa a bit down offensively, under six goals looks like a strong play. This game could be low-scoring, and the Sabres should stay in the game, so betting the Sabres on the puck line also seems like a value.

Our model agrees with both of these bets, with both posted as three-star plays or better. It looks like another great night to back the surprising Sabres’ defense.

Dallas Stars vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Blue Jackets (+114) | 3-Star Rating out of 5

Like the Sabres, the Blue Jackets were not expected to be a good team this season. They traded away some pieces and replaced their head coach in what was expected to be a rebuilding season. But some of their pieces have been playing better than expected and have led them to a decent start to the season.

Patrik Laine looks to be playing close to his best after struggling last season after a midseason trade. He has six points in five games, including an overtime goal. He’s playing with Jakub Voracek, who’s also playing well with five assists in five games. Perhaps the most important part of the team is Elvis Merzlikins, though, and he has been solid in goal with 2.34 goals saved above expected.

The Jackets will take on a Dallas Stars squad that has not been impressive to start. They have three wins — all of which required overtime. In those three wins, they controlled just 40.5% of the five-on-five shot attempts. And they’ll be without Jason Robertson in this game, who finished second in last year’s Calder trophy voting.

Dallas might still be getting love for going to the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals, but even that season was anything but smooth sailing. With the way they’ve been playing to start, Columbus certainly has a chance of beating them.

With our model giving the Moneyline a three-star rating, the Jackets are definitely a viable bet tonight.

Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images

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