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NHL Odds, Preview, Pick: Blue Jackets vs. Capitals (January 8)

NHL Odds, Preview, Pick: Blue Jackets vs. Capitals (January 8) article feature image

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images. Pictured: Nicklas Backstrom.

Blue Jackets vs. Capitals Odds

Blue Jackets Odds+290
Capitals Odds-375
Over/Under6.5 (-106/-114)
Time5:00 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Sunday will mark a massive day for Capitals fans, as both Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom will make their season debuts at home.

Washington will host the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, who rank second last in the league entering this matchup with a record of 12-24-2. Columbus did shock Carolina as massive home underdogs Saturday afternoon, however, and could potentially trend upwards down the stretch.

Is this a good spot to back the Capitals as heavy home favorites?

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A Whole Lot of Dread For Columbus

Similar to Washington, Columbus has also suffered through one of the league's worst injury situations this season.

The Blue Jackets likely never would have found meaningful success this year after some puzzling offseason moves, but the stack of bodies expected to be meaningful pieces sitting on the sidelines surely has not helped.

Columbus has allowed 3.95 goals against per game this season, which is the second-worst mark in the league. Over the last ten games, Columbus has played to a 38.44 expected goals for rating, which is an incredibly dreadful mark for a sample covering almost a month of action.

The dreadful goals against situation has been far worse on days with Elvis Merzlikins starting in goal, as Merzlikins has played to a shocking goals against average of 4.78 with a -20.3 goals saved above expected rating.

Playing behind a notably poor defensive team certainly hurts Merzlikins even if GSAx is intended to quantify chance quality, but it is still very noteworthy that Merzlikins' GSAx rating is the worst in the entire league.

Return of the Cap(itals)

The Capitals have hung around in the Eastern Conference playoff picture throughout a ridiculous amount of meaningful absences and have suffered through the most man games lost in the entire league this season.

The Capitals may finally be through the worst of it, as two assistant captains will return Sunday when top-six forwards Tom Wilson and Nick Backstrom make their season debuts.

Whether or not the pair are able to immediately make any kind of meaningful difference remains to be seen, but the Capitals' recent success has been built upon stellar play as a team.

Despite Ovechkin grabbing all the headlines, the Capitals really do not hold the same kind of elite talents at the top of the lineup as other strong Eastern Conference sides. Instead, they have received meaningful contributions from a number of under the radar sources.

Most notable is the entire defensive core, which has settled into a dominant stretch of play and features a number of underrated pieces such as Nick Jensen, Dmitry Orlov, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk.

Over the last 16 games, Washington has played to a stellar 57.74 xGF%, and have turned that into an elite record 12-2-2.

Peter Laviolette's crew has done an elite job of managing the puck over that span, and have looked very sharp with the ability to prolong stretches of play in the offensive zone with creative five man attacks and aggressive play on the walls.

Darcy Kuemper will start Sunday for the Capitals and has been steady thus far with a +4.3 GSAx rating and a .916 save % throughout 25 appearances.

Blue Jackets vs. Capitals Pick

On nights when Joonas Korpisalo starts in goal, Columbus could possibly be somewhat undervalued moving forward, if young guns like Kirill Marchenko and Kent Johnson continue to grow.

This simply does not project as a good spot for the Blue Jackets to play spoiler, however.

Washington has been heavily tilting the ice in all recent matchups, and there is some meaningful logic that dictates the Capitals should be extremely ready to go for this outing.

Washington will generate a lot of high quality scoring chances in this matchup, and running into an elite goaltending performance that could rob us of a -1.5 cover goes down  heavily with Merzlikins in net.

Laying -135 for the Capitals to cover the puck-line in this spot still projects to be a strong play, and I would back Washington to cover down to -150.

Pick: Capitals -1.5 (-135; Play to -150)

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