The Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals will lock horns for the fifth time this season on Thursday, February 18, 2021, so here’s the best betting pick for their East Division clash at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., along with the latest team news and stats.
The Capitals opened as firm -170 moneyline favorites on PointsBet Sportsbook, while the Sabres are +153 underdogs to win straight up. Washington has won three of its previous four encounters with Buffalo this term.
The hosts miss center Brian Pinho and goalie Henrik Lundqvist. On the other side, the visitors are coming without winger Zemgus Girgensons.
Buffalo’s return to the ice wasn’t nice at all
The Buffalo Sabres (4-6-2) returned from a two-week absence caused by the COVID-19 and had some tough time against the New York Islanders to start this week. They got beaten 3-1 on Monday and 3-0 on Tuesday, so the Sabres have dropped four of their last five games overall.
Buffalo is one of the most inefficient teams in the league. The Sabres rank 26th in goals scored per game (2.42) and 25th in shooting percentage (8.0%). At least, the Sabres went 13-for-43 with the man advantage, posting the fifth-best power-play percentage in the NHL.
The Sabres’ penalty-killing percentage is the 11th-best in the league, as they allowed five goals on 27 power-play opportunities. Buffalo yields 3.08 goals per contest (tied-21st in the NHL), and neither of its two goalies has impressed thus far. Linus Ullmark should get the starting call Thursday, and he’s 3-2-2 with a 2.63 GAA and a .912 save percentage.
Washington beat the Pens to snap a four-game skid
The Washington Capitals (7-4-3) finally broke out of their slump this past Tuesday, outlasting the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 as +105 road dogs to stop a four-game slide. Just two days after a heavy 6-3 defeat at Pittsburgh, the Caps played very well and took 42 shots, while Vitek Vanacek posted 26 saves.
The Capitals score 3.50 goals per game (7th in the NHL), going 11-for-36 with the man advantage (4th). Their shooting percentage is the sixth-best in the league (11.9%), while center Nicklas Backstrom leads the way with seven goals and 12 assists through 14 appearances.
Rookie Vitek Vanacek is the Caps’ first-choice goalie this season. He owns a 6-3-2 record along with a 3.06 GAA and a .906 save percentage. The Capitals have the third-worst defense in the NHL, yielding 3.57 goals per game, but their penalty-killing percentage is solid 12th (81.2%).
- 1-4 in the last five games overall
- 2-7 in the last nine games on the road
- 15-5 in the last 20 games against Buffalo
- 9-1 in the last ten home contests against the Sabres
Both teams had to pause their activities at some point this month, and the Capitals look like a better team than the Sabres at the moment. They put on a strong performance to bounce back from a heavy loss, while the Sabres scored just one goal in a two-game series against the Islanders.
Also, the Caps have owned the Sabres lately, winning 15 of their last 20 encounters and nine of their previous ten matchups in D.C. I’m following the betting trends, expecting the Capitals to outplay Buffalo at home.
Pick: Take Washington Capitals at -170
The Sabres struggled mightily in that two-game set against the Islanders, but New York is one of the best defensive teams in the league. The Capitals’ defense is far away from an elite level, so the Sabres should get things going in this one.
On the other side, the Caps possess a lethal offense that can score three or more goals against any team in the league. Therefore, I’m backing the over, hoping for a whopping seven or more goals in total.
Pick: Go over 6.5 goals at +107