It’s a small 4-game slate, but that didn’t stop me from finding a couple gems to highlight. Today, let’s target the matchup with the highest game total on the slate (as I like to do), which is Toronto vs. Buffalo.
@FastMoneyLabs’ NHL Betting Preview & Picks - 3/2
Toronto Maple Leafs (35-14-4) @ Buffalo Sabres (16-30-8)
Last time these teams met (November 2021), they combined to light the lamp 9 times in just 60 minutes. It rained goals that night from start to finish. In the end, Toronto got last laugh, as shown below:
Since then, Buffalo bolstered its roster by adding superstar forward Alex Tuch. Will the addition of Tuch be enough to push Buffalo over the edge and steal a win tonight in Toronto?
Considering Buffalo’s on a 6-game losing streak, whereas Toronto scored a combined 17 goals in their last 2 games, I’m hesitant to back the Road Underdog on the Moneyline or Spread. Instead, I found better value in the Team & Player Prop markets, which I’ve since attacked with 4 bets that I’ll highlight in today’s column.
Team Total Pick
I mentioned the Maple Leafs’ offense is red hot. Equally important to know is that their goaltenders are struggling — especially Toronto’s backup goalie, Petr Mrazek, who Buffalo gets the gift of facing tonight.
To his credit, Mrazek is coming off a solid 30-save performance vs. Washington, but his season-long output is mediocre at best. In 13 appearances, he’s posted a 3.07 Goals Against Average (GAA), 0.895 Save Percentage (SV%) and -0.484 Goals Per Game Saved Above Expected. I’m not impressed.
Of the 11 games he started, he allowed 3 or more goals 9 times. Said differently — if you blindly bet Toronto’s opponent to score 3+ goals when Petr Mrazek starts, your betting record would be 9-2 with a 81.8% hit rate.
I don’t endorse blindly betting things, so let’s run some checks before making a decision. To start, let’s review how often: (1) Buffalo actually achieves this, and (2) how often Toronto allows it:
Buffalo’s not really known for offense but as you can see above, they score 3+ goals more often than not. It’s a thin margin, but they’ve been hitting it.
Toronto, meanwhile, allowed 3+ goals in 4 of their last 5 (80%) games and 7 of their last 10 (70%). At home, the hit rate is lower but trending up, per the L5 & L10 game splits above.
Mrazek’s Home/Away splits show he’s better at home, but not by much. To cash, all we need is 3+ goals, which he’s allowed in 3 of 4 (75%) Home starts this year.
It’s true, the Sabres rank near the bottom of league scoring away from home. But so does Chicago, and they still scored 4 vs. Mrazek in Toronto. Why can’t Buffalo?
BUFFALO TEAM TOTAL OVER 2.5 (INC. OT) @ +135
Team Shots on Goal Prop Pick
They say a picture’s worth 1,000 words. See below:
After a slow start, Buffalo’s shooting numbers away from home are rising and trending towards off the charts. Entering tonight, they’ve gotten 31+ shots on goal (SOG) in 10 straight road games, including in tougher matchups vs. the likes of Vegas, St. Louis, Colorado and most recently Dallas where the team finished with 40 SOG (tying a season high).
At time of writing, their Team SOG line is sitting at o/u 27.5 on Barstool Sportsbook. I find that very interesting considering Toronto allowed 29+ SOG in 5 straight home games.
Also interesting — when these teams played in November, Buffalo outshot Toronto 27 to 26, which I found surprising but is a real stat. Notably, the Sabres still finished with 27 shots — 1 below what we need tonight — which I think explains why oddsmakers set the line this way.
What sportsbooks are failing to account for, though, is the fact that since then, Buffalo bolstered its roster by acquiring two talented forwards, Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, via trade.
Tuch is undoubtedly contributing to Buffalo’s rising shots on goal trend, as he’s averaging 3.3 shots per game. Krebs’ direct impact less measurable since he’s more of a playmaker than a shooter, but I still view his presence favorably considering he’s great at creating shots for his teammates.
Which raises a question: If Buffalo got 27 shots vs. Toronto without Tuch and Krebs, is it reasonable to think they can get 28+ tonight? My favorite part about sports gambling is that no one really knows, but my best educated guess says the answer is YES. And I’m confident enough to put my money on it.
BUFFALO O27.5 TEAM SHOTS ON GOAL @ -118
Player Prop Targets
My top player prop targets for this game are: