Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:51 AM

NHL Best Bets, Score Predictions for Thursday, Feb. 25

NHL Daily Free Picks & Predictions NHL expert Matt Blunt provides his score predictions and best bets for one NHL game on Thursday Feb. 25, 2021.

New Jersey vs Buffalo

  • Money-Line Odds: New Jersey -104; Buffalo -112
  • Total (Over-Under): 5.5

Score Prediction: New Jersey 3 Buffalo 2

Best Bet: New Jersey ML

Expectations were never soaring for this Devils team in 2021 given who else is in their division this year (Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington etc), but to be 1-3 SU against the one organization New Jersey should be able to beat the majority of the time (Buffalo) has to be a little disheartening.

Two of those three losses to the Sabres have come in the past six days, as there was a 3-2 win for Buffalo last Saturday, followed up with a 4-1 defeat on Tuesday.

Both of those were at home for the Devils, but tonight they get to go back to Buffalo were they went 1-1 vs the Sabres earlier this season, the one loss coming via a shootout.

Being the visiting team can never really be considered any sort of significant advantage, but in terms of where this market price ends up going through the day, it could be an advantage in the sense that the majority of the market will look back and quickly come to the simple conclusion that the Sabres won both games on the road this week so it goes to reason they should win at home at a near pick'em price.

I fully expect this line to move Buffalo's way because of it, so patience could pay off for those that prefer to see from the lens that neither one of these teams is good enough to impose the kind of dominance over the other that Buffalo's 3-1 SU head-to-head record suggests.

One of the interesting dynamics in this unique NHL season, are these instances where teams are playing three and four (sometimes more) games against the same opponent. I prefer to view them in a similar light of a playoff series, without the same stakes obviously, but with similar “series-type” dynamics.

It's hard for anyone to sweep a playoff series, and for Buffalo to win three straight over the Devils in the span of six days when it's the fourth game in six nights for both sides is a tough proposition for me to believe as the eventual outcome here.

Sure, Buffalo could win yet again, as New Jersey might be the side feeling the effects of the four-in-six spot more heavily, but if that's how this Devils play goes down, then so be it.

I prefer to treat these games like New Jersey/Buffalo, Chicago/Detroit, or any of the California teams playing one another as ones where there likely won't be a lopsided edge in the season series results either way, as these teams just don't have the upper-echelon talent that other organizations do in the NHL to rattle off a bunch of wins in a row against the same opponent.

In regards to the California teams playing each other, I've referenced before that the looks there are generally going to be shaded towards the underdog pending the actual price.

That's not specifically the case here with these prices, but the situation of Buffalo winning twice in a week and likely looking quite cheap at these odds because of it sets up rather nicely for the contrarian approach with New Jersey.

The Devils might not be the best team out there, but they do own a winning record on the road (4-3 SU) while Buffalo's just 2-6 SU on their home ice.

New Jersey can also be considered the better offensive team with a 2.75 xGF/60 number compared to Buffalo's 2.44 xGF/60 which sits third worst in the entire league, ahead of only Detroit and Columbus.

New Jersey's biggest weakness is keeping the puck out of their own net, but the recent familiarity with facing this Sabres attack so much these past few days is something I believe will help the Devils be much better in that regard in this game.

Finally, the futility of the Sabres the last half-decade at least has come because they can never seem to get over the hump in terms of taking that next step and beating the weaker teams consistently.

Two in a row and three of four over the Devils could point to a slight change in that manner, but Buffalo's still on a 3-7 SU run overall against another team with a losing record, and the idea that this Sabres team could beat anyone three times in a week is one that I'll almost always be willing to go against.

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