NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks (February 17)
Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Elvis Merzlikins.
- The Blackhawks host the Blue Jackets as home favorites on Thursday night in Chicago.
- Is there value on the underdog Blue Jackets who have won five of their last seven?
- Our analyst breaks down the matchup and shares his best bet below.
Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks Odds
|Blue Jackets Odds||+130|
|Time||8:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
The Blue Jackets will head in to Chicago looking to build on what has been a very solid stretch of hockey, winning five of their last seven contests heading into Thursday.
Chicago has won two of three with Marc-Andre Fleury shining, but will they build on that mark playing at home here against some middling opposition?
Blue Jackets’ Offense Heating Up
The Blues Jackets have quietly seen their offense come to life of late, producing an average of four goals per game over their last seven contests. A healthy Patrik Laine, who has produced 13 points and seven goals over his last seven games, has been a big reason for the offensive resurgence.
A top line of Laine, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Boone Jenner isn’t likely to be one of the more dominant top units at even strength. However, this group does feature two lethal shooters in Laine and Bjorkstrand as well a player very capable of getting net-front goals and driving the play down low in Jenner.
The Blue Jackets’ main concern has been their defensive play, but this could set up as a far more manageable affair in a game against a Blackhawks team heavily reliant on their power play and production from the duo of Alex Debrincat and Patrick Kane.
They also hold a slightly above average Penalty Kill at 80.1%. If they can limit Chicago’s power play unit, it could go a long way here, as the Blue Jackets should outscore the Hawks at 5-on-5.
We have seen Columbus post more acceptable results in that regard against the softer competition recently, and if they avoid complete breakdowns, Elvis Merzlikins should stop the pressured and outside shots.
Merzlikins holds a -4.3 Goals Saved Above Expected rating with a .904 Save % in 31 games played this season. However, I believe he is better than those numbers suggest, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him manage a strong game here in a game where his club gives him a better chance to succeed against a thin Chicago offense.
Will the Blackhawks’ Offense Improve at Home Thursday?
Chicago continues to skate through a middling run of results. Altogether over their last 10 games, the Blackhawks have produced just a 45.17 xGF% and a 3-6-1 record, with all three wins coming against competition outside of the playoff bracket.
While this is another of those winnable contests, the Hawks have far from dominated, and it’s not easy for me to see their offensive unit blowing the Blue Jackets out of the water here.
On the season the Blackhawks have produced the league’s 30th offensive output at 2.39 goals per game. With some notable roster holes upfront, it’s hard to see them improve considerably in that regard in the near future.
Marc-Andre Fleury has stabilized as the season has moved along with the Blackhawks now playing considerably better defensively. He holds a -8.6 Goals Saved Above Expected rating with a .910 Save % in 36 contests.
Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks Pick
Columbus has quietly put together a 5-2-0 stretch over their last seven contests,. Although analytically the Blue Jackets’ play has been less than dominant, these two teams are skating closer than a line of +140 suggests because Merzlikins should be better than his numbers indicate altogether this season.
The Blue Jackets have done very well against manageable competition of late, and I think they can hang in here with a relatively one-dimensional Blackhawks attack.
At +140 there’s value to back an upset in this contest in taking the Blue Jackets, who still have produced a far better record than the Blackhawks while playing in a tougher Metropolitan Division.
Considering that Chicago’s greatest strength under Derek King has been to create close contests and hang around, I love getting the Jackets at such a long number and would back the Blue Jackets down to +118.
Pick: Columbus Blue Jackets +140 or better