It’s a battle of teams from the Atlantic Division on the ice as they collide in Western New York. The Montreal Canadiens are on the road as they make the trip to face the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night. Montreal was in action on Wednesday night on the road against Toronto to open their season. Buffalo finished last season in the basement of the East Division with a 15-34-7 record as they missed the postseason for the 10th straight season. In the last 10 meetings between the teams, the Canadiens own a 6-1-3 advantage, including a 3-1 victory on the road in the most recent matchup on January 30, 2020.
Montreal Canadiens Open Season With Back-to-BackMontreal was on the road against Toronto Wednesday night to open their season so they’ll be playing the second game of a season-opening back-to-back set here. The Canadiens finished last season 24-21-11 on the season for 59 points. After rallying to beat Toronto in seven games in the opening round of the playoffs, Montreal swept the Jets in the second round and dispatched the Golden Knights in six games in the conference finals. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Canadiens were dropped in five games to end their season three wins short of the promised land. Montreal has some pieces to fill in this season if they hope to have that kind of success again.
Montreal finished the regular season last year 17th in the league in offensive production with 2.82 goals per game on the season. The Canadiens were 18th in goals against as they allowed an average of 2.95 goals per contest. Montreal was 18th in power play success by cashing in 19.2% of their chances with the man advantage on the year. The Canadiens were 22nd in penalty killing by successfully getting through 78.5% of their shorthanded situations last season. Montreal lost Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Carolina), Phillip Danault (Vegas), Erik Gustafsson (Islanders), Charles Hudon (Tampa Bay), Charlie Lindgren (St. Louis), Jon Merrill (Minnesota), Corey Perry (Tampa Bay), Tomas Tatar (New Jersey) and Gustav Olofsson (Seattle) in free agency. The Canadiens did sign Mike Hoffman, Mathieu Perreault, Cedric Paquette and David Savard via free agency. Montreal will be without Shea Weber, whose career may be over, and Carey Price, who is dealing with a knee injury. Hoffman is also out with a lower-body injury while Joel Edmundson (undisclosed) and Paul Byron (hip) are out as well. Sam Montembeault is expected to get the start between the pipes in this contest for the Canadiens.
Buffalo Sabres Try to Start Season on Positive NoteBuffalo struggled mightily last season, going 15-34-7 to finish in the basement of the East Division standings. The Sabres were eight points behind the Devils for next-to-last and finished 34 points behind the Islanders for the final playoff spot in the division. Ralph Krueger was fired midway through the season and, after Don Granato went 9-16-3 as the interim coach, he earned the job full-time going forward. Buffalo is tied for 28th in the league in scoring offense as they average 2.39 goals per game this year. The Sabres are tied for 30th in the league in goals against as they allow an average of 3.50 goals a night on the season. Buffalo is 12th in the league in power play success as they convert 21% of their chances with the man advantage this year. The Sabres stand 25th in penalty killing as they have gotten through 77.7% of their shorthanded situations on the year.
"unassisted" pic.twitter.com/wGUfqoPNpr— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 9, 2021
Offseason news around the Sabres swirled around the ongoing saga surrounding Jack Eichel’s neck injury. He wants to undergo an experimental surgery that has never been performed on an athlete before while the team wants a more traditional regimen. GM Kevyn Adams stripped Eichel of his captaincy and there have been reports circulating about a trade for months. Buffalo managed to re-sign Rasmus Asplund, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Fitzgerald, Henri Jokiharju, Casey Mittelstadt and Brandon Davidson. The Sabres also added veteran goaltenders Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell along with Vinnie Hinostroza to try and bolster their current group of talent. There are a lot of losses though as Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen were both traded. Meanwhile, Linus Ullmark (Boston), Carter Hutton (Arizona), Tobias Rieder (Anaheim), Riley Sheahan (Seattle), Jake McCabe (Chicago) and Matt Irwin (Washington) all departed via free agency. Victor Olofsson (13 goals, 19 assists) is the team’s leading returning scorer. Dustin Tokarski, who was 2-8-2 with a 3.54 GAA and a .904 save % in 13 games last season, is expected to get the start in goal here.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
While Montreal is playing the second game of a back-to-back situation here, the fact remains that they are playing a Buffalo team that has struggled over the past decade. The Sabres have plenty of work to do in order to become relevant again in the NHL. We’ve seen issues with the Eichel situation that has dragged on for months now and they seemingly are no closer to a resolution than they were back in March. Montreal is missing quite a few pieces in the mix from last season’s Stanley Cup Finals run but they can lean on the experience they picked up from that and use it to their favor. Look for the Canadiens to come up with the road victory here.
Full-Game Total Pick
Montreal finished last season 11-10-7 on the road in the regular season. The Canadiens had a -1 goal differential as the visiting team a year ago. Montreal saw an average of 5.77 goals per game overall last season, a number that ticked down slightly to 5.75 goals per game as the visiting team. Buffalo was 8-16-4 on home ice last season. The Sabres owned a -34 goal differential on home ice last season. Buffalo had an average total of 5.96 goals per game last season though that number fell to 5.57 goals per game on home ice. The Sabres mustered just 2.21 goals per game on home ice a season ago. Given the Sabres’ offensive woes and their retooling, coupled with Montreal playing the second game of a back-to-back, this one ends up falling under the total.