The Battle of the QEW writes another chapter today as the Maple Leafs visit Buffalo to take on the Sabres. Both teams are coming off of tough Tuesday losses, and have a little bit of extra juice to put towards a big performance tonight as such. Let’s break down the odds and main stories ahead of puck drop!
Bet on Maple Leafs vs. Sabres
Toronto are -140 road favourites going into this game, a number that was in the -160 range yesterday but has since shrunk.
Maple Leafs vs. Sabres odds
|Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds
|Sabres Moneyline Odds
|Puck Line odds
|Maple Leafs -1.5 (+150), Sabres +1.5 (-180)
|Total Goals line
|7.0 goals (over +100, under -120)
|Dec. 21, 7:00 p.m. ET
|Broadcast: Sportsnet Ontario
(How to watch the NHL in Canada?)
About the Maple Leafs (16-7-6 SU, 8-21 ATS, 17-11-1 o/u)
Toronto enters this one a little more vulnerable than they have been in the past few weeks, finally having a truly tough night and conceding two points to the New York Rangers on Tuesday. This was the sort of game that was expected of them when they faced the Blueshirts the first time – a team that looked a step behind the play and never really controlled the pace. Auston Matthews did his best to keep them in it with two equalizers in the second and third periods, but as the third went on, the wheels came off for good and the Rangers pulled away to secure a 5-2 victory.
It’s not all doom and gloom in Toronto, though. The loss was their first in regulation since November 25th, going 6-0-3 in the previous nine games and 10-1-4 in the prior fifteen. The team has had a few dominant games recently and feels closer to their expectation than just a team that’s scraping by. Players are starting to return from injury and it seems like whatever bug was in the dressing room has moved on, though in this winter season, you always knock on wood a little.
About the Sabres (13-17-3 SU, 17-16 ATS, 14-18-1 o/u)
There have been few bigger disappointments in the NHL this season than the Buffalo Sabres, which feels like a sentence we’ve repeated before, but has never quite felt this strong. Year after year, the rest of the league waits for this team to pop, believing in the amassed talent to finally put it together, and year after year, they fall flat.
What makes it so disappointing this time around, though, is that last year’s Buffalo team did make a strong push toward the postseason, and several of their best players did break out in big ways. This was supposed to be the continuation of that, and instead, but instead we’ve seen several of their top scorers unable to maintain the heights of the year prior and their goaltending perform at one of the worst clips in the league, combining for an 0.888 SV% at the 33-game mark.
In Buffalo’s last 11 games, they’ve picked up just three wins.
Tonight marks the second of four games between these two teams in their season series, with Buffalo currently having the edge. While Mitch Marner got the scoring started and Matthews picked up a hat trick, the Sabres built up a steady stream of goals throughout that kept them in control, getting their first lead off of a Tage Thompson shorthanded tally in the early second, trading goals another few times with the blue and white, before Alex Tuch pushed them ahead one last time in in the third period and added an empty netter as insurance.
|Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Nicholas Robertson – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Bobby McMann – David Kampf – Noah Gregor
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake McCabe – Timothy Liljegren
William Lagesson – Conor Timmins
Starting In Goal
Ilya Samsonov (unconfirmed)
5-1-5, 3.51 GAA, 0.878 SV%
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka – Dylan Cozens – Jack Quinn
Jordan Greenway – Casey Mittelstadt – Zach Benson
Eric Robinson – Peyton Krebs – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin – Mattias Samuelsson
Owen Power – Henri Jokiharju
Erik Johnson – Connor Clifton
Starting In Goal
Devon Levi (likely)
6-4-2, 3.26 GAA, 0.892 SV%
Expect little change in the Toronto lineup, which assuming good health is likely to hold as it is for a while yet. Buffalo gets a shakeup in the form of two forwards returning from injury (we’ll touch on this shortly).
In goal, the game projects to feature what some may have expected to be a heavyweight matchup earlier in the year, but hasn’t quite stuck. Ilya Samsonov, incredibly, has found a way to get points out of over 90% of his games, even with one of the worst save percentages in the league among regular netminders. Devon Levi was hoped to be in the Calder Trophy mix this year, but the 21-year-old was not an instant answer. After some time in the AHL, Levi came storming out of the gate for the Sabres this month with four dominant performances (3-0-1, 0.942 SV%) but was lit up for four goals against on 18 shots on Tuesday against Columbus.
John Tavares to score a goal
Toronto’s injuries and absences remain the same as they’ve regularly been. On Buffalo’s end, Jeff Skinner has been out with an upper-body injury over the past week, though he’s expected to draw back in tonight. Jordan Greenway is in a similar situation, meaning Buffalo will be getting back two forwards tonight if all goes to plan. Zemgus Girgensons is week-to-week with a lower-body injury suffered in late November and will not be returning tonight.
- Buffalo has always been a thorn in Toronto’s side, a team that knows how to play up to the occasion. The history matches, with the Sabres winning six of the last 10 games, and seven of the last 10 on the puck line, despite being the underdog in every single one. The total goals over has been hit in seven of those games, with one game landing on the other and two pushes (a possibility for tonight, with a line of 7.0).
- The Leafs are 6-4 in their last ten, 4-6 on the puck line, and have hit the goals over in eight of ten games. They’ve been less successful on the road, going 5-5 in their last ten, 2-8 on the puck line, and 5-5 on total goals.
- Buffalo is in a rough spot right now, going 3-7 both in terms of straight-up results and against the puck line in their last ten.
Player Prop Trends
- The Sabres don’t have anyone that’s lit up the scoresheet over the last ten games with four players (Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittlestadt, and Rasmus Dahlin) co-leading the team over that stretch with seven months. When you move to the last five though, you’ll find Cozens and Mittlestadt with five points, and Dahlin with six.
- Tage Thompson’s performance since returning to injury hasn’t been great. After picking up three points in his first three games, he’s only picked up one in the five games since, leaving him with four in eight. On the year, he has 8 goals and 8 assists in 24 games which, while respectable, is far from his 94-point clip from the season prior. So keep an eye on that.
- With Auston Matthews’ two goals on Tuesday, he’s sitting at a whopping 11 goals in his last seven games, including five multi-goal games. Remember when we were talking about a slump? Yeah, ancient history right now.
Wagers To Consider
- John Tavares has historically been good against the Sabres, including seven points in three games against them last year. I’d be intrigued by the props surrounding him – an anytime goal sits at +150, clearing his shot prop of 3.5 sits at -120, a singular point sits at -180, and a powerplay point at +130. Yes, I know you need to get a power play to score on one – sorry to anyone who tailed my Rielly call last game.
- If you’re intrigued by Tavares as well, there’s a +325 (up from +300) boosted same-game parlay on bet365 that features him scoring, Auston Matthews hitting 3+ shots, and Tage Thompson also hitting 3+ shots on goal. Those are very reasonable numbers for the shot props, particularly on Matthews’ end, so Tavares is likely the driving factor here.
- I could see the Sabres storming out of the gate for this one, between wanting revenge for the Columbus loss and knowing that a great start is the best way to get the travelling Toronto fans silent in their building. The “To Score In Period” section at Bet365 has a bevy of options for first-period goals (JJ Peterka comes to mind for me) but an exact score of 1-0 Sabres in the First 10 Minutes section (+375) is something that would not shock me.