NHL Odds & Pick for Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets: Value on the Total in Columbus (Thursday, Feb. 25)

NHL Odds & Pick for Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets: Value on the Total in Columbus (Thursday, Feb. 25) article feature image
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Kirk Irwin/Getty Images. Pictured: Blackhawks goalie Kevin Lankinen stops a shot from Cam Atkinson.

  • The Blue Jackets' struggles in the crease have made them a sneaky valuable over team with Elvis Merzlikins out.
  • Will that trend continue Thursday against the Blackhawks?
  • Matt Russell previews the matchup and shares his betting pick below.

Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets Odds


Blackhawks Odds +105
Blue Jackets Odds -125
Over/Under 5.5
Time | TV 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via BetMGM.

If you’re like me, and you’re stuck inside with the wind howling outside, dreaming of the feels-so-distant-future when it’s warm enough to go outside without multiple layers, maybe you find yourself day-dreaming about swimming on a warm summer day. Those were the days as a kid. Whether it was a lake, the ocean or the neighbors’ pool, you’d have to drag me out of the water. Swimming was the best.

Swimming is decidedly less fun when it’s the best way to describe your goaltender’s style of play. If your goaltender (or more appropriately the goaltender of the team you’ve bet on) frequently finds himself either flat on his back or facedown in the crease, he is swimming. He’s also probably not going to stop the puck very often from that position. It’s truly a “life comes at you fast” situation. 


Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks pulled off another post-regulation victory in Columbus on Tuesday. It’s kind of become their thing. Five of their last six victories have come in either 3-on-3 overtime or a shootout. Whether it’s their penchant for stealing the tiebreaker or the points toward the standings that are the result, the market has corrected to the high end for the Blackhawks. 

One thing we’ve always known about the Blackhawks is that they can score. If Patrick Kane is on your team, that’s probably going to be the case. However, the Blackhawks have actually dipped recently when it comes to 5-on-5 High-Danger Chance creation. They’ve gone eight straight games without cracking double digits in that key category. What we couldn’t have seen coming, however, is the arrival on the scene of Kevin Lankinen, who leads the league in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) at 9.07. 

As the Blackhawks finish up a five-game road trip, their three wins already make it a success. They’ve progressively improved their rating at even strength in my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast. However, they’re still 11% below average in the Central Division. 


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.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Columbus Blue Jackets

My rating for the Blue Jackets has deteriorated to the point where it’s almost identical with the Blackhawks’. Columbus hasn’t been able to combine good goaltending and a boost in offensive output very often this season. The scoring-chance-creation bump they seemed to receive with the arrival of Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic seems to have flattened out. 

Last season’s goaltending “Who would you rather?” seems to have been answered, as Elvis Merzlikins has outperformed Joonas Korpisalo by a great deal this season. The problem is, Merzlikins and his 2.52 GSAA is back on the injured list, and Korpisalo hasn’t shown anything to bring confidence in the idea that he can be a No. 1 goaltender, posting the 55th-ranked GSAA at -6.39. 

In fact, the wildest statistical metric that came out of the 6-5 Blackhawks win was that the Expected Goals (XG) was just 1.55 to 0.87 in favor of Chicago. Five of the 10 goals scored were on the power play, but that still leaves five other goals to be accounted for at even strength, with just two of them coming from High-Danger Chances. Two of the three “unexpected” goals came from situations where Korpisalo was out of position on relatively innocuous even strength plays.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

The Blue Jackets’ struggles in the crease have made them a sneaky valuable over team with Merzlikins out. Columbus games have been 6-2 to the over in games that Korpisalo has started since Merzlikins first got hurt. The two unders were five-goal games.

Between a couple of unders mixed in there when Merzlikins came back, and the Blue Jackets branding as a defense-first team, the market may be slow to adjust. Early lines indicate that the total in this game will be at the usual low end of 5.5, and I think that’s a mistake.

While I don’t see any value in either team given the expected moneylines of CHI +105/CBJ -125, the total is a more viable bet.

Pick: Over 5.5 (-110 or better)

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