Free NHL Picks: Sabres at Red Wings Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 10/1/2013
Welcome to my first NHL preview for the new season, on which the puck dropped less than three months after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. It's a new-look NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets now in the Eastern Conference and the Winnipeg Jets out West. From a scheduling perspective, it's a great move for Detroit in terms of travel, but the East is deeper than the West this season, thus making it tougher for the Wings to get back to the Cup Finals. Detroit had the Blackhawks down 3-1 in the West semifinals last season before losing three straight. That's one drawback of the realignment; only two meetings a regular season between the Wings and Hawks, two rivals who respect but pretty much hate one another.
Buffalo was a .500 team last year but finished last in the Northeast Division. It was the second straight season the team has failed to make the playoffs, and the Sabres haven't won a playoff round since reaching back-to-back conference finals in 2006-07. It's a long shot the Sabres get to the playoffs this season. They are 30/1 to win the Atlantic Division at Bovada, ahead of only Florida. Boston is the 11/5 favorite followed the Red Wings at 7/2. I don't think Buffalo is a Top-8 team in the East with Boston, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, both New York teams, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington all better on paper. Maybe Columbus, Carolina and Ottawa too.
Sabres at Red Wings Betting Story Lines
Buffalo figures to be very active in trade discussions all season, specifically with its two best players, forward Thomas Vanek and goalie Ryan Miller. Both were rumored to be dealt all summer as each is in the final year of his contract. The team has made no efforts to sign either. Miller was the Vezina Trophy winner as recently as 2009-10 when he had a 2.22 GAA and .929 save percentage. He hasn't approached those numbers since and had a 2.81 GAA and .915 save percentage with nary a shutout last year. The Avalanche have been rumored as a destination for Miller, who is 18/1 at Bovada to win this season's Vezina. I do think Vanek will get dealt. The former 40-goal scorer had 20 goals and 21 assists in 38 games last season. He is the team's co-captain this season with Steve Ott. Vanek will captain home games and Ott away. Vanek is given an “over/under” of 69.5 points.
Ron Rolston enters his first full season as the Sabres' coach. He took over on an interim basis for the fired Lindy Ruff in February and led Buffalo to a 15-11-5 record after being promoted from Buffalo's American Hockey League affiliate. The Sabres didn't make any earth-shattering additions this offseason nor did it lose anyone of note.
The Wings made two big signings in upgrading their top-six forwards in landing Daniel Alfredsson from Ottawa and Stephen Weiss from Florida. In 2011-12 Weiss had 20 goals and 37 assists for the Panthers. He was limited to only 17 games last year due to wrist issues and had four points. Many were surprised that Alfredsson left the only franchise he has known. Clearly the Wings give him a better chance of winning a Cup than Ottawa does. After all, the Wings have made the playoffs a record 22 straight seasons. The 40-year-old Alfredsson had 26 points last season for Ottawa. He and Weiss are likely to man the second line with Johan Franzen. Detroit's biggest loss was Valtteri Filppula, who signed a big deal with Tampa Bay. Filppula had nine goals and eight assists in 41 games in 2013. The Wings also were able to convince Pavel Datsyuk, still among the NHL's best two-way players, to sign an extension instead of finishing his career in his native Russia with the KHL.
Sabres at Red Wings NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At WagerWeb, the Red Wings opened at -170 and the Sabres at +143 with a total of 5.5. Last year, Buffalo was 22-22-4 over/under (9-12-13 on the road). Detroit was 17-25-6 O/U (8-14-2 at home). The Sabres are 5-1 in their past six Wednesday games. The under is 5-2-1 in Buffalo's past eight on the road. The under is 3-0-2 in Detroit's past five Wednesday games. The under is 7-3-2 in Detroit's past eight at home. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings. Buffalo has won just three of the past 20 meetings.
Free NHL Picks: Sabres at Red Wings Betting Predictions
Because of the lockout, the Sabres and Red Wings didn't play last season. In the most recent meeting between the teams on Jan. 16, 2012, the Red Wings won 5-0, their second win in two games against the Sabres that season.
Look for Alfredsson to perhaps get off to a good start. In his 17 seasons with Ottawa, Alfredsson scored more goals (42) against Buffalo than any other NHL team. On the flip side, Miller is 2-6-2 in his career against Detroit. The Sabres also are going to be really young, with three first-round picks since 2012 slated to be in Wednesday's lineup. It's tough enough for veterans to win at Joe Louis Arena. Plus, Wings goalie Jimmy Howard really wants to be on the Team USA roster for the Olympics, and the first few months of the season will be a tryout (Miller was the American star goalie in the 2010 Games). Take Detroit and the under.
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