NHL Picks: Buffalo Sabres vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Ross Benjamin

Saturday, October 12, 2013 1:18 PM UTC

Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 1:18 PM UTC

The Buffalo Sabres travel to United Center in Chicago for a Saturday night 8:05 PM ET faceoff versus the Blackhawks.

NHL Preview

According to current NHL betting odds the Blackhawks are a huge -235 money line favorite and the total is set at 5.5. The Blackhawks are -1.5 (+132) on the puck-line as well. This will be the first of 2 meetings between these 2 clubs this season with the other taking place at the HSBC Center in Buffalo on March 8th. Chicago has won the last 3 meetings between these 2 clubs. 

Sad State of the Sabres

The Sabres will attempt to avoid their 6th loss in a row tonight to start the season. Entering tonight’s game this is the worst start for the franchise in 14-years. The discouraging thing is that the team has shown no sign of there being any light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve scored a grand total of 5-goals in the first 5-games, and are a dismal 2-18 on the power play. Buffalo has been outshot in their first 5-games 182-126 which translates to a -11.2 per game shots on goal differential. The Sabres looked totally disinterested in Thursday night’s 4-1 loss at Columbus. They fell behind 3-0 in the first period and never mounted anything that resembled a comeback over the final 40-minutes.

The lone bright spots for the Sabres have been center Cody Hodgson and winger Thomas Vanek who have combined to accumulate 8 of the team’s 13-points.  Buffalo has gone under the total in 4 of their 5-games this season with the other resulting in a push. The Sabres will be without Patrick Kaleta, who is suspended until attending a hearing with the NHL department of player safety Tuesday. He's facing a suspension of more than five games for his hit on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson early in the opening period Thursday. Buffalo will also likely be without the services of veteran Henrik Tallinder tonight who is nursing an upper body injury. Underachieving Ville Leino is out indefinitely with an injury to his ribs.

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Hawks Back On Track

The Hawks broke a 2-game losing streak with a 3-2 home win last night versus the Islanders. It was a nice rebound after enduring a gut wrenching 3-2 loss at St. Louis in their previous game. The Blues won that game on a goal with just 0:22 to go in regulation. Prior to that contest Chicago was surprised at home by Tampa Bay losing 3-2 in overtime. It’s no secret that the Hawks are going to receive everyone’s best shot this season and will have the proverbial target on their heads as defending Stanley Cup champions. Chicago was outstanding a season ago when playing their 2nd game in as many days going 10-2 in that role. The Hawks have seen their last 3-games all go under the total with all of them ending with identical 3-2 scores. The power play has been efficient so far going 4-15 (26.7%). The penalty killing has been horrible allowing opponents to convert on 5 for 11 of their power play opportunities. The Hawks come into tonight’s game relatively healthy.

Final Analysis

The obvious assessment when looking at this matchup is that you would need a psychiatric evaluation to consider wagering on Buffalo. Although crazier things have happened, the reality of the matter tells you differently. It’s certainly a very risky venture betting a -235 money line favorite, and one that I would always advise against regardless of the teams involved. Laying the 1.5-goals on the puck line is certainly an option but one I would shy away from as well. It’s not like the Blackhawks have taken the bull by the horns in the early stage of the season. My NHL pick on this game is to go under the total of 5.5.

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NHL Technical Totals Angle

Any NHL home team playing with no rest with a total of 5.5, and is coming off a home win has seen 69 of those 95 games (72.6%) go under the total since the start of the 1996-1997 year.

Free Pick: Sabres/Blackhawks Under 5.5

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