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NHL Odds & Pick for Chicago Blackhawks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: Which Struggling Team Provides Value? (April 10)

NHL Odds & Pick for Chicago Blackhawks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: Which Struggling Team Provides Value? (April 10) article feature image

Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Alex DeBrincat

  • Both Columbus and Chicago have combined for just six wins over their last two games.
  • The Blackhawks, however, still have a fighting chance at making the playoffs, while the Blue Jackets may be mailing it in before the trade deadline.
  • Michael Leboff explains why he believes Chicago is underpriced.

Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets Odds

Blackhawks Odds -110
Blue Jackets Odds -110
Over/Under 5.5
Time Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings

Neither the Columbus Blue Jackets nor Chicago Blackhawks are in a purple patch of form right now. Combined, the two clubs sport a 6-13-1 record over their last 20 games. That said, one team is playing marginally better than the other and presents some decent betting value on Saturday night.

The Blue Jackets have been in disarray for basically the entire season. From the moment that Pierre-Luc Dubois requested a trade, the usually buttoned-up Jackets have been an unmade bed. John Tortorella’s tenure in Ohio has been defined by scrappy underdogs punching above their weight by playing a relentless, detail-oriented game and relying on a stalwart defense to turn contests into coin flips. As impressive as the Jackets have been over the past two seasons, it looks like they’ve lost the plot in 2021.

Not only are the Jackets sporting an unimpressive .452 points percentage in a relatively soft division, but they’re also last in expected goal rate, 28th in 5-on-5 goals allowed and 20th in expected goals allowed. Columbus has never been a 5-on-5 behemoth, but to see the Jackets rank that low defensively is a big surprise.

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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.

The reason that Columbus needs its defense to do the heavy lifting is because the Jackets don’t have enough high-end talent to make up for mistakes. Add in the fact that some of Columbus’ best players are either underperforming (Patrik Laine, Max Domi), hurt (Zach Werenski) or randomly scratched (Jack Roslovic) by their wild-card head coach, and you can see how this whole thing has turned sideways pretty quickly.

The Chicago Blackhawks are nothing to write home about, either. After an eye-opening start to the season, the Hawks have wobbled down to earth and are now outsiders to make the playoffs. It always looked like the Blackhawks were vulnerable to regression because of their inability to drive play and the stellar play of rookie Kevin Lankinen in goal, but they do remain a team with high upside even if their play-driving metrics lag compared to their peers.

On the season the Blackhawks sport a 46.6% expected goals rate (27th), a 45.2% goal share (25th) and a 44.8% high-danger chance rate (29th). Those kind of numbers are really difficult to overcome but the Blackhawks have enough game-breaking talent to give themselves a chance in games where they are chasing the puck. Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik are the headliners for an offense that should give the Jackets some issues, especially without David Savard and Zach Werenski.

And it’s not like bettors should expect the Hawks to be shelled in this game. Chicago may not control play on most nights, but against a Columbus team with perhaps the worst 5-on-5 portfolio in the league, there’s a good chance we see most of the action take place in front of the Jackets’ goal.

It’s nearly impossible to handicap a team’s motivation, and I try my best to ignore that kind of stuff and stick to numbers, but it’s pretty hard to look past what we’ve seen from the Blue Jackets lately. With the trade deadline looming it’s fairly likely that we won’t get the best effort from a team that has underwhelmed so far this season. On the other hand, the Blackhawks are having a better-than-expected season and will fancy themselves to stick around the playoff picture.

I’d rather the Blackhawks start Kevin Lankinen, as his +0.7 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) and .916 save percentage is a tier above Malcolm Subban’s -2.33 GSAx and .903 save percentage, but the truth is that either one of them is fine with the way Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo have performed this season.

I think Chicago is underpriced in this game and lay it up to -130.

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