NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Blue Jackets vs. Penguins (December 6)
Justin Berl/Getty Images. Pictured: Kasperi Kapanen and Bryan Rust.
- The Penguins are huge home favorites in Tuesday night's matchup with the Blue Jackets.
- Pittsburgh is once again a force in the Metropolitan Division, while Columbus is one of the worst teams in the league.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of this matchup, including a betting pick.
Blue Jackets vs. Penguins Odds
|Blue Jackets Odds
|7 p.m. ET
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.
It’ll be the second time these teams face off this season, with the Pens winning convincingly in the first meeting, 6-3. The Jackets have had it rough all season and are sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference, though they’re currently playing .500 hockey over the last 10.
Pittsburgh has been red-hot as of late, winning seven out of its last 10 games, and is currently on a two game winning streak. The Penguins have held their own in a powerful Metropolitan Division, but even though they’ve been one of the hotter teams in the league, they only place fourth.
Who takes the victory in Pittsburgh?
Blue Jackets Have Struggled
Columbus is the worst team in the East and has been riddled with injuries and poor goaltending all season. Patrik Laine spent most of the season on IR but returned at the start of the month. Big-time offseason acquisition Johnny Gaudreau has been as advertised, averaging over a point per game. Captain Boone Jenner has been exceptional as well as youngster Kent Johnson.
They’ll be without some key players in Jakub Voracek, Zach Werenski and Jake Bean, who are all out due to injury.
While they sit in the bottom of the standings, the Jackets also have one of the worst even strength attacks. They’re 28th in expected goals with a 43.8 xGF% and 31st in high danger chances. Along with that, Columbus has the second worst power play with a lowly 15.5% success rate.
When you’re last in the conference, it’s expected that there has to be some defensive woes. While the penalty kill isn’t as abysmal as you’d think at 79% (still not great), their expected goals against per 60 is at a fifth worst 2.92.
Elvis Merzlikins has been injured for a few weeks, but it appears that the Latvian netminder is back. Coach Brad Larsen announced that he’ll be starting against the Penguins and he’ll look to reset the season. Merzlikins did not look great to start the season as he was statistically one of the worst goalies with an .864 SV% and a league worst -12.9 goals saved above expected (GSAx).
Penguins Led By Crosby
Sidney Crosby stands atop the teams scoring once again this year with 33 points in 25 games. Now at the age of 35, it seems as if Sid the Kid hasn’t lost a step.
Behind him, both Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin have 24 points, tied for second on the team, while Jason Zucker is performing at an above average pace.
The Pens will unfortunately be without veteran defenseman Kris Letang as he suffered a stroke last week. It’s unknown when he’ll return but he did go for a light skate on Thursday. Beyond Letang, there are no other significant injuries here.
With how well the Penguins have had it, their even strength game is among the league’s best. They have a sixth best expected goals percentage of 55.25 and average a little less than 11 high danger chances per game.
One aspect of their offense that needs work is their power play. With the weapons Pittsburgh has, you’d expect it to be a lot better than 18.3% with the man advantage.
Defensively, the Penguins have been exceptional. They’re playing to a 12th best 2.52 xGA/60 and their penalty kill is among the best with an 80.5% success rate.
After a fairly slow start to his season, Tristan Jarry is back to his old ways. Since November 19th, Jarry is posting a deadly .956 SV% and a .915 SV% throughout the season. Even with this hot start, he’s still posting a -0.6 GSAx which should tell you a lot about where he was to start the season.
Blue Jackets vs. Penguins Pick
These are two teams in two completely different situations. The Penguins are clearly the superior team and the last time these teams faced off, Pittsburgh had its way with Columbus.
Not only that, but I don’t have a ton of faith that Merzlikins comes back and plays well. He’s struggled all year, and coming back from injury, I expect some rust from him given all the talent from Pittsburgh.
I don’t foresee this being very close, which is why I think the puck line is the way to go here.
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