Predators vs. Blue Jackets Odds
|Blue Jackets Odds||+150|
|Time||Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday and via BetMGM|
Congratulations for getting this far!
Admittedly, this is a game that literally no one has been waiting for. The Predators have all but locked up a playoff spot, while the Blue Jackets are bleeding to the finish befitting of their Civil War namesakes.
Unfortunately, this where the best value lies on a busy Wednesday night, assuming Columbus has one of their most important soldiers in the lineup.
The Predators have been tearing the hearts out of recent victims over the past few five days. First, Nashville scored the lone goal of the game in an overtime win over the Stars on Saturday in a game they had to have. Then, after blowing a 3-0 lead to the Blue Jackets on Monday, Columbus stormed back to tie the game, before breaking the tie again in overtime.
Monday’s win was the front end of this back-to-back set and put the Predators at 4-1 in their last five games despite not cracking double digits in their high-danger chances at even-strength in any of the games. Meanwhile, their opponents have had games with 12, 13, and 14.
The Preds have benefitted from converting on eight of their 40 high-danger chances in those five games, a 20% clip that is 6% higher than the league average. Conversely, their opponents have scored on just 3-of-51 high-danger chances at 5-on-5. That 5.8% conversion rate against isn’t sustainable, even for Juuse Saros, who has been one of the best goaltenders in the league in the latter half of the season.
Saros has started 11 straight games, the longest run of consecutive games in his career. This brings an interesting decision for the Preds. With just three games to go, do you play Saros the rest of the way, knowing that he’ll be the guy for the playoffs? Or do you start Pekka Rinne in a game just to get him some action before the postseason? Ideally, they’d like to make the last game meaningless and take care of any lineup issues then.
An interesting wrinkle potentially came in the third period on Monday, as it appeared that the Blue Jackets found a vulnerability in Saros, scoring twice on short-side shots over his left shoulder.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The fact that the Blue Jackets are still engaged enough at this point in the season to find a hole in an opposing goaltender is actually quite impressive. Columbus is 3-18 in their last 21 games, which includes a nine-game losing streak.
That said, the Jackets’ last four games might be their best offensive outputs of the season, averaging 11.75 even-strength high-danger chances in that span. All this has come without their biggest offensive name in Patrik Laine. Where Columbus has faltered is in converting those chances, going just 4-for-47. That’s unsustainably low, even without their most gifted sniper though. The hope for them would be that they can keep the high-danger chances numbers up while getting closer to their 13% season-long conversion rate.
That won’t necessarily happen in one game, of course, at least unless Emil Bemstrom has anything to say about it. He scored all three goals for the Blue Jackets against Nashville on Monday.
That actually may be a good thing for Columbus for two reasons. Firstly, the goals were his first three of the season, so the absence of Laine could mean more opportunity for others that are capable of finding top-corner vulnerabilities. Secondly, the rest of the Blue Jackets have some room for contribution in the rematch.
The big thing we’re looking for in advance of puck drop is the big assignment for the Blue Jackets. Who will be in goal?
There are few teams with a bigger discrepancy from their two main goaltenders than the Blue Jackets. Despite battling numerous injuries this season, Elvis Merzlikins is in the top 15 in the league in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA). His colleague Joonas Korpisalo has had trouble with the added workload when Elvis has left the building due to injury, as he sits second-last in the NHL with a -13.24 GSAA.
In order to get the best version of the Blue Jackets, we’ll need Elvis in the blue crease.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The reason we’re able to talk ourselves into Columbus here is for the same core reason we make any bet: the price.
The Blue Jackets have been consistently bad this season, and they may end up in the cellar of the Central Division, but their shortcomings are thoroughly baked into the price. My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model grades them at 10% below-average at even-strength this season.
Meanwhile, the Predators are a playoff team and are priced that way as relatively heavy road faves. However, my model makes them a dead-average team in the division. That isn’t all that surprising given that they’re fourth in an 8-team division. This may only interest me but through 53 games, they have created 409 high-danger chances at even-strength. Their opponents’ total? 409.
All this adds up to this game being more of a coin flip on the road in Columbus according to my model. This was somewhat confirmed in Monday’s game, during which the Blue Jackets had the advantage in expected goals 5-on-5 (2.23-1.96), and even-strength high-danger chances (12-9). Not to mention the game going to overtime.
The Blue Jackets respectable showing probably means we might not get the same +150 price on the home underdog, but I’m fine with +130 or better just as long as flipping his hips on center stage in the crease.
Pick: Blue Jackets moneyline (+150 or better)