Sabres at Maple Leafs Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 2/21/2013
I graduated from college 16 years ago. I was a senior when Lindy Ruff was hired as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. A whole lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, but this will be the first game since then that Ruff will not be the man in charge. The longest tenured coach in the sport — and second longest in North American sports behind only Gregg Popovich — is suddenly unemployed after the disappointing start to the season for Buffalo, and the Sabres are in a very unfamiliar position right now. How they respond to that will have everything to do with how this game turns out.
The Leafs and the Sabres only play a couple of hours apart, and quite a rivalry has developed between the teams. The games are much more intense in Buffalo than Toronto, though. It’s much easier to get hold of Sabres’ tickets than Leafs’ tickets, so the games in Buffalo are heavily attended by Canadians who can’t see their team at home. Those games are rowdy and a lot of fun. This won’t be quite the same, but both teams should be very motivated to win, so it should be a good one.
Sabres at Maple Leafs Betting storylines
Ron Rolston is the unfortunate guy who has to step into Ruff’s shoes — at least on an interim basis. It’s hard to be optimistic about what he brings to the table. Though he has been coaching since 1991, tomorrow will be his first day in the NHL. After coaching at four different colleges he ran the United States National Team Development Program for seven years before heading up the Rochester Americans in the AHL for the last year and a half. That’s the Buffalo farm team, but he won’t have a lot of familiarity with most of this roster because of his short stint with that team, and the lights are going to be bright as he debuts in an Original Six arena. He’s also just an interim at this point and likely a longshot to stay long term, so the team could have a hard time tuning in to his message. Ruff was a popular coach with his players, so it could be a tough time for them.
For the Leafs, all eyes will be on the net. The team has had some crazy luck in nets recently. Ben Scrivens raised a lot of eyebrows with back-to-back shutouts over the weekend. He cooled down considerably on Tuesday, though, when he allowed four goals in 46 minutes before getting the hook. With starter James Reimer sidelined with a knee injury, it will either be the surprising Scrivens or the underwhelming Jussi Rynnas in the nets. There is obviously upside, but there are about 22 teams with goaltender situations I like better than this one.
A team doesn’t fire a coach when they are playing well, so it goes without saying that the Sabres are not playing well right now. They have dropped their last two and four of their last five. They were seen as a legitimate contender in the East — not a truly elite team, but a strong second-tier squad — but their 6-10-1 has them in a rough start already since we are a third of the way through this short season. Ryan Miller is a great goalie, but his 3.00 GAA in his last nine starts just isn’t good enough in this era of the NHL. Thomas Vanek exploded out of the gates early this year, and he has an impressive 25 points, but he has only tallied points once in the last five games. Ruff was a good coach, but it wasn’t working right now, and something had to be done.
Sabres at Maple Leafs NHL Odds and Betting Trends
The Sabres are just 1-5 the last six times they have crossed the border to play Toronto. The home team has won eight of their last 10 meetings. The Sabres have gone over the total in six of their last seven against teams with a winning record.
Sabres at Maple Leafs Picks and Betting Predictions
I have had a lifelong hatred of the Maple Leafs, so it pains me to pick them. I don’t really have a choice here, though. The change was necessary in Buffalo, but given the circumstances I don’t expect them to enjoy an immediate boost. Toronto has won six of eight and is playing with solid confidence. They are a good bet here.
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