Momentum & Home Ice Advantage Make Sabres Our NHL Pick Over Penguins

Swinging Johnson

Sunday, February 21, 2016 2:29 PM UTC

Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 2:29 PM UTC

The Penguins travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres who've won three of their last four. Let's review the NHL odds and determine which side to back this afternoon in our NHL picks.

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Free NHL Pick: Buffalo +113
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Pittsburgh Penguins (29-28 SU, -4.35 units)
The Penguins welcomed the Lightning to the Consol Energy Center last night and dropped a 4-2 decision yet still maintained a precarious hold on the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. Five teams are within striking distance of unseating Pittsburgh from their postseason position, and if their play continues to be as erratic as it has been lately, then the denizens of the Steel City will be unable to cheer for their club after their final regular season game with Philadelphia on April 9th.

The NHL odds installed the Penguins and Lightning as a virtual coin flip with these two clubs scratching and clawing for every point possible in the hotly contested and jam-packed Eastern Conference standings. Tampa Bay had not defeated the Pens in Pittsburgh since November 12, 2010 but that changed last night with help from Steve Stamkos who notched his 24th goal of the season and 300th of his career. Backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff got the unexpected start after scheduled starter Marc-Andre Fleury took ill during pregame warmups. The Penguins outshot the Lightning 37-20 yet were outscored 4-2 and now they move on to Buffalo this afternoon.


Buffalo Sabres (24-35 SU, -1.4 units)
The Sabres are desperate to separate themselves from the cellar dwellers and vie for a chance to snag the seventh or eighth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. Though they have plenty of obstacles in their way, nothing cures the locker room blues like winning and they have started to do just that. Beginning on February 12th, the Sabres notched a 6-4 home win over the tail spinning Montreal Canadiens. Two days later they welcomed the Avalanche to the First Niagara Center and dominated play resulting in a 4-1 decision. After that second consecutive win the team packed up and headed to Ottawa where they fell 2-1 to the Senators in a shootout.

However, the Sabres were undeterred by their temporary setback and skated into Columbus where they rewarded all those who backed them as +130 underdogs in their NHL picks with an impressive 4-0 blanking of the Blue Jackets. Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner was magnificent turning aside 38 shots for this third career shutout. Lehner sprained his ankle in the season opener and had been sidelined until returning to face the Bruins on January 15th. Since then, he's been slowly easing back into his role splitting time with Chad Johnson. Yet his play recently has yielded three consecutive starts with two victories and a shootout loss resulting in a micro 0.66 goals against.


Betting Analysis
As of this writing, we know that the white hot Robin Lehner will be backtending the twine this afternoon for the Sabres, but Pittsburgh's starter is still unconfirmed. If Fleury is feeling better from his bout with whatever ailed him yesterday, then there is no doubt he will be the man between the pipes for the Penguins. Yet, even if Fleury does go, I like the way Buffalo has played as of late and particularly the stone wall that has been Robin Lehner.

Let's not try and avert out eyes from the reality that Pittsburgh has owned Buffalo over the past few seasons. The Penguins are 7-0 over their last seven meetings against the Sabres, but let's not forget that this Pittsburgh team is a far cry from the high scoring juggernaut of old. This year's edition is 16th in scoring averaging only 2.6 goals per game and a solid 11th defensively allowing 2.5 goals per contest. They are playing a team that is not the most talented but is playing their best hockey of the season.

These clubs are no longer worlds apart and Buffalo has momentum as well as home ice advantage facing a team that is 12-15 on the road this season and played just last night. Let's grab some betting value from the offshore bookmakers and take a flier on the Sabres.

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