NHL odds, picks, best bets for Monday

NHL odds, picks, best bets for Monday

The Buffalo Sabres find themselves in a familiar spot this holiday season and that’s not a good thing.

After closing out 2022-23 strong, the young, exciting Sabres were supposed to take a major step forward this campaign but the early returns are not all that encouraging.

Buffalo, which has made a habit of starting seasons slowly, is 9-10-2 after 21 games and sports a -11 goal difference.

The Sabres are three points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, so they’re certainly not out of it, but they’re also just four points ahead of last-place Columbus. 

Buffalo is in desperate need of stringing some wins together, but things won’t be easy Monday night as the Sabres travel to Madison Square Garden as a +180 underdog.

Rangers vs. Sabres prediction

The strength of this Sabres team was supposed to be a fast-moving, dynamic offense. Buffalo finished third in the NHL in goals per games (3.62) in 2022-23, and the team’s offensive core is so young that it was a safe bet to assume that the Sabres would at least come close to replicating that output.

And it was imperative that Buffalo did just that because the team’s defensive numbers last season were poor and there was no real sign that they would improve in ’23-24. Some stronger goaltending was projected, but the Sabres were set up to outscore their defensive flaws, rather than to grind out results with a structured game.

In a twist, the Sabres have taken a minor step forward defensively, but the offensive numbers and goaltending have let them down. Buffalo is simply not creating enough scoring chances to give itself a chance to overcome inconsistent goaltending and average defensive play. 

K'Andre Miller (79) skates pass Jake DeBrusk (74) during the Rangers' recent win over the Bruins.
K’Andre Miller (79) skates pass Jake DeBrusk (74) during the Rangers’ recent win over the Bruins. AP

Things don’t project to get any easier against the red-hot Rangers, who lead the NHL in goals against average.

While the Sabres are struggling to find a consistent identity, the Blueshirts have made no mistakes about how they want to play. The Rangers aren’t dominating teams at 5-on-5, but that’s nothing new for this group. The Blueshirts know they can rely on their all-world playmakers, goaltenders and defensive structure to be the difference in otherwise close games. The Rangers rarely lose games on the margins thanks to their elite special teams and goaltending. 

Sitting at 15-3-1 on the season, 8-1-1 in their last 10 and riding a three-game winning streak, it’s hard to gather up the courage to step in front of this train right now.

Betting on the NHL?

The Rangers’ formula is clearly working and they’re taking on an inconsistent team that has struggled to find consistency through the first quarter of the season.

But in betting everything comes down to price and it’s pretty clear that bookmakers are putting a premium on the red-hot Rangers in this spot. The Sabres are struggling and will be without Tage Thompson, but they still have a high enough ceiling that they’ll always be tempting at these kind of prices. 

It’s a bet you’re more likely to lose than win, but the Sabres are the value side Monday night at MSG.

The Bet: Buffalo Sabres (+180, BetMGM)

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