Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars.
Sabers vs. Stars Odds
|Time||8:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Dallas can feel pretty secure about clinching a playoff berth at this point, but with a 28-13-7 record, the Stars are in a heated fight for the Central Division title. That pales in comparison to the Sabres’ urgency though. Buffalo is 23-19-3 and in a clustered battle for a wild card spot, as the Sabers fight to make the postseason for the first time since 2011.
The Sabers are basically the most straightforward team in the league: They’re all offense, no defense. Buffalo has averaged 3.80 goals per game, which puts it in a tie with Boston for the top rank offensively.
The Sabers have four forwards with over 40 points in Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch, Jeff Skinner and Dylan Cozens. On top of that, Buffalo has three forwards with more than 20 goals in Thompson, Tuch and Victor Olofsson. To put that in perspective, Dallas has just one player who has surpassed the 20-goal milestone — Jason Robertson — and Dallas is an impressive offensive force in its own right.
And yet, Buffalo’s best offensive weapon, at least recently, hasn’t been a forward. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has led the Sabres’ January scoring race with three goals and 14 points in 11 contests. Dahlin has also contributed four helpers over his past two games.
For all that production though, the Sabers have been held back by their goaltending. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been in net for the Sabres’ past seven games, but it’s not like Buffalo keeps turning to him because of his unreal play. Over that seven-game span, he posted a 3.25 GAA and a .904 save percentage. The Sabers don’t have great alternatives, so he keeps getting sent out, and to be fair, it’s not like the issue is purely poor goaltending. Buffalo ranks 27th with 160.85 expected goals against, per Moneypuck, so the defense deserves some of the blame.
Regardless of who is at fault, this creates a big opening for Dallas.
Buffalo might be an amazing scoring force, but the Stars aren’t too far behind. Dallas ranks seventh offensively with 3.46 goals per game. However, what the Stars have that Buffalo lacks can be summed up in two words: Jake Oettinger.
The goaltender hasn’t needed to singlehandedly win games for Dallas, but Oettinger would be up to the task. Through 35 contests, Oettinger has recorded a 21-7-4 record, 2.20 GAA and a .926 save percentage. He’s also shutout the competition in two of his past three starts, including Saturday’s 4-0 win against Arizona.
There’s no question Buffalo presents a bigger challenge than Arizona, but Oettinger has the capacity to hold back the tide, especially given that he doesn’t need to be perfect. Dallas’ offense, coupled with the Sabres’ defense, creates a scenario where even if Oettinger is just okay, the Stars forwards might be able to take it from there.
Miro Heiskanen is someone to keep an eye on. The 23-year-old defenseman is on a five-game point streak, providing eight assists over that span. Robertson is also rolling with five goals and nine points in his past eight games.
Sabers vs. Stars Pick
Dallas is being treated as a heavy favorite. On FanDuel’s moneyline, the Stars have -178 odds to Buffalo’s +146. The puck line spread is 1.5 goals in favor of the Sabres, and going that route changes the odds to +132 for Dallas and -162 for Buffalo.
I’m not in love with any of those bets, but I am interested in FanDuel’s 60 Minute Line. If you go that route, you can take Dallas at -113, which is a huge improvement over the moneyline. You do lose the bet if the game goes to overtime, but I see that as a fair tradeoff for the increased potential payout.
I think it’s worth considering the over of 6.5 goals as well given the combined offensive power of these two teams. However, the projected presence of Oettinger in net gives me enough pause to recommend the 60 Minute Line instead.
Pick: Dallas Stars 60 Minute Line -113 (play down to -125)