NHL Odds & Picks: How We’re Betting Blue Jackets vs. Predators, More

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Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Ovechkin

  • After opening as underdogs, the latest NHL betting odds pin the Columbus Blue Jackets as -200 favorites against the Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET).
  • Michael Leboff previews Saturday night's matchup as well as the rest of the NHL slate, assessing where to find the best betting value,
  • Find his analysis and picks below.

No team has been bit harder by the injury bug than John Tortorella’s overachieving Columbus Blue Jackets, who just lost top-line forward Oliver Bjorkstrand to a long-term injury. Bjorkstrand joins Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Josh Anderson and Joonas Korpisalo on the injured list.

It’s a real shame because Columbus, a team that was left for dead in the offseason when Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene jumped ship, was grinding its way to a playoff spot thanks to fantastic defense and great goaltending.

But things change quickly in the NHL, and now the Blue Jackets are hanging on for dear life and hoping to end an 0-3-4 skid with a visit to Nashville on Saturday night.


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Columbus Blue Jackets at Nashville Predators

  • Blue Jackets odds: +130
  • Predators odds: -150
  • Over/Under: 5.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET

The Blue Jackets haven’t won in two weeks, but they are still playing good hockey. Columbus boasts a 56.5% expected goals rate during its seven-game swoon, which suggests the Jackets have been unfortunate during this slide.

The Jackets are allowing 1.77 expected goals against per 60 minutes (5-on-5) during their losing streak. That is the best mark in the league over that span.

Better days are coming for the Jackets after a ridiculous run through December and January; it’s hard to discount what the Jackets are doing despite their cruel and unusual injury luck. That’s especially true in their own zone, where the Blue Jackets are allowing just 1.77 expected goals against over this losing streak.

The caveat is that the Blue Jackets can’t generate offense. Columbus scores 2.14 goals per 60 minutes and creates 2.24 expected goals for per 60 at 5-on-5, ranking 27th and 25th, respectively. Nashville’s defense isn’t anything to write home about, but Ryan Ellis is back in the fold and the Jackets aren’t the type of offense that will test your blueline.

Heatmap via HockeyViz.com

John Hynes took over the Nashville Predators in early January and has now been in charge for 19 games, so we have a small-but-usable data set to see where the Preds are at under the third coach in franchise history. The early returns are pretty mediocre. Nashville is 10-8-1 with a 48.7% expected goals rate under Hynes.

Nashville’s season has been a bit confounding, and Hynes’ arrival hasn’t really done much to fix that yet.

The Jackets’ defensive fortitude always makes them worth a look at a number like this, even if they are a banged-up team and on a seven-game losing streak. I’d play Columbus at +130 or better.

[Bet now at PointsBet. NJ only.]

Around the League

I usually look to fade the Winnipeg Jets (+133). They have been beating their expected goals all season long, and their modest success looks like a house of cards built on terrific goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck. That said, I like Winnipeg’s price against the Philadelphia Flyers (-155) on Saturday afternoon.

If the price keeps climbing on the Buffalo Sabres (+195), I’ll take a shot against the Pittsburgh Penguins (-230). Buffalo’s offense is virtually non-existent outside of Jack Eichel, but its defense is tough to break down (2.2 xGA/60), and I like backing good defenses at big prices.

I played the Vancouver Canucks (+125) against the Boston Bruins (-145). Boston’s been flying lately, but I think this is a good number on Vancouver. The odds imply that the Canucks have a 42.9% chance of winning this game, which seems a little low considering that Boston is on the road and played last night.

And finally, if the San Jose Sharks find their way back to +145 or better, they are worth a shot against the red-hot New York Rangers. The Blueshirts are playing well and their underlying metrics check out, but they are traveling on a back-to-back, so this looks like a good sell-high spot on New York.

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