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Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks NHL Odds & Pick: The Under is the Smart Play in Chicago

Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks NHL Odds & Pick: The Under is the Smart Play in Chicago article feature image

Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Lankinen

  • The Chicago Blackhawks have been better than expected, while the Blue Jackets have suffered through drama and misfortune.
  • The two teams meet on Thursday night in Chicago.
  • Will the Blackhawks' good fortunes remain, or will Columbus get back on track?

Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks Odds

Blue Jackets Odds -103
Blackhawks Odds -115
Over/Under 5.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings.

After losing their first four games, the Chicago Blackhawks have just one regulation loss in their last 10 games. The Blackhawks have surprised many in the first quarter of the season, as they were expected to be a bottom-dwelling team. 

Prior to the season, nobody would have expected the Blackhawks to be favorites over the Columbus Blue Jackets at any point this season. However, sports are weird, and here we are with Chicago as home favorites against the Blue Jackets. 

What do we make of the Blackhawks’ surprising start?

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Columbus Blue Jackets

The season might be less than a month old, but it’s already been a whirlwind for the Columbus Blue Jackets. We’ve seen star players benched and traded, newly acquired star players benched, and mid-season retirements. Columbus has had it all.

Despite all the drama, the Blue Jackets have a respectable 6-5-3 record through their first 14 games. However, Tortorella’s constant benchings and press conference sound-bites are well deserved. 

Columbus enters Thursday with the league’s second-worst mark in terms of expected goals, playing at a 42.9% rate. In fact, the Blue Jackets are the second-worst team in shot attempt rate, high danger chances and scoring chances as well. 

Coming into the year, nobody expected much from the Blue Jackets’ offense. Even though they’ve made the playoffs for four straight years, their offense has never been the reason. However, nobody expected it to be this bad. 

Columbus enters the game last in terms of expected goals scored per hour at 5-on-5. In addition, they are averaging just 6.36 high danger chances per hour, which is the worst in the league as well. Their power play is not helping matters as they find themselves towards the bottom of the league, converting just 13.2% of opportunities. 

Usually, Columbus’ defense is the story of the team and the Blue Jackets’ biggest strength. However, the Blue Jackets are in the bottom third of the league in terms of goals against per game. All defensive metrics are painfully average. Goaltending has not helped as Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins have combined for a -6.01 goals saved above expectation (GSAx) through the first month. 

This is not good news for a team that prides itself on keeping the puck out if it’s net and needs to play that way to win games. 

Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks traded away Brandon Saad. They traded goaltender Robin Lehner and let his partner Corey Crawford walk in free agency. Captain Jonathan Toews hasn’t played all season due to a medical issue. The organization released a letter to its fans saying it’s time to rebuild. 

The Windy City was settling in for a long year, but it was to be expected after a mini-dynasty a few seasons ago, right? The Blackhawks lost their first four games and gave up 20 goals in the process. 

Since then? Chicago has points in nine of its last 10 games and has given up just 21 goals. 

Patrick Kane continues to be one of the more dynamic players in the sport and his production shows that. He’s contributed 17 points through his first 14 games. He’s joined by youngsters Alex DeBrincat, Pius Suter and Dominik Kubalik, who have started the season playing very well. 

However, Chicago’s offense is not the story. The story has been its goaltending. 

Kevin Lankinen started the season as the Blackhawks’ third-string goalie, but at this moment he might be the leader in the clubhouse for Rookie of the Year. Lankinen has posted a 5-1-3 record with a 2.17 goals against average and .933 save percentage. His 5.41 GSAx is the second-best mark in the league. 

While the Blackhawks find themselves in the bottom-10 in the league in terms of expected goals, high danger chances and shot attempts, Lankinen gives them a chance to win every night. He’s taken a team many had pegged for the basement and turned it into a competitive team on a nightly basis. 

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Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks Best Bet

If you told me at the start of this season that the Chicago Blackhawks would be favorites over the Columbus Blue Jackets, I would have laughed in your face. Well, here we are. 

While the Lankinen story has been great and the Blackhawks are playing hard every night, I have no interest in betting them as a favorite. This is a team that most had competing for the first-overall pick, and their underlying metrics don’t exactly suggest a good team. Laying juice on teams like that is asking for trouble. 

On the other hand, Columbus has been awful. In fact, they the Blue Jackets have been worse than Chicago according to the metrics. There’s also a lot of drama surrounding the team and it seems like Tortorella might be on the verge of losing control. As a small road underdog, I don’t see much value in betting Columbus here either.

With Columbus having one of the worst offenses in the league and Lankinen’s hot start to his NHL career, my favorite betting angle is the total. 

Just two of the last eight Blackhawks games have gone over the total, and Columbus isn’t the team I’d expect to flip that trend. Hopefully Tortorella keeps benching their most talented forward to help us cash this under. 

Pick: Under 5.5 goals (-115)

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