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NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Capitals vs. Blue Jackets (March 17)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Capitals vs. Blue Jackets (March 17) article feature image

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Ovechkin

  • The Blue Jackets host the Capitals as home underdogs.
  • Is there value in fading a Blue Jackets team that is playing the second leg of a back-to-back?
  • NHL betting analyst Nick Martin breaks down Thursday's matchup below and shares his best bet.

Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Odds

Capitals Odds-200
Blue Jackets Odds+170
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Capitals head to Nationwide Arena for a date with the Blue Jackets as they look to build on a hot start to the month of March. This could be a great spot for the Capitals’ offensive surge to continue against a Blue Jackets team that has allowed a ton of goals this season.

Will the Blue Jackets be able to sort out their defensive woes against Alexander Ovechkin and the Caps?

Healthy Capitals Surging

On March second, Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said that his group was looking like a middle tier team, not a contender.

Since then, the Capitals have fired off a 5-0-1 stretch of play, seeing the offense come alive with 4.00 goals for per game. This is even more impressive because two of those six contests came against the league’s top defensive squads in Carolina and Calgary – both of whom the Capitals bested.

The hot stretch has also coincided with the return of Anthony Mantha to the Capitals’ top six, which has allowed the team to play with all six top forwards for the first time all season.

Analytically the team’s play has been strong over the six-game stretch, with the Capitals playing to a 54.03 Expected Goals mark. A strong 3.36 Expected Goals For per/60 rate suggests the offensive success will likely continue. This team has many potent playmakers and finishers who always seem to generate more goals than Chances For suggest they should. Their newfound depth is starting to move the needle for the Capitals.

While the Capitals may not be a true contender in the East, the downswing seen from this group for much of 2022 is far below what the roster is capable of at full strength. Expect them to maintain this strong run of play moving forward.

Ilya Samsonov had a very strong start in Edmonton last week, and I expect to see him get the start against Columbus. Coach Peter Laviolette will likely opt to use his stronger option in Vitek Vanecek against Carolina on Friday.

Samsonov has posted some inconsistent results this season, with a -5.7 Goals Saved Above Expected rating and a .901 Save % in 33 games.

Blue Jackets Regressing

After a surprisingly impressive run of results through much of February, the Blue Jackets have come down to earth, albeit still with a respectable 4-4-2 mark over their last 10.

The Blue Jackets fared quite favorably in front of the opposition’s goal for much of that stretch, allowing them to outscore a ton of Chances Against to find success. But their play seemed unsustainable as Columbus continued to convert Chances For at a notably high rate.

Over their last seven contests, the Blue Jackets have played to just a 42.01 Expected Goals mark, with a very high Expected Goals Against per/60 rate of 3.97. This runs in line with the actual Goals Against as Columbus has allowed 4.14 Goals Against over that span.

With Elvis Merzlikins slated to start Wednesday against Ottawa, Joonas Korpisalo should get the start here. Korpisalo has struggled this season with a -8.7 Goals Saved Above Expected mark and a .883 Save % in 19 games.

Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Pick

Washington has began to surge after what was a lengthy downswing, and I like this as a spot to see the Capitals’ improved play continue in a favorable matchup.

Columbus has continued to allow a ton of Chances Against of late, and Washington should take advantage of those mistakes, especially with the Blue Jackets skating on a back-to-back after playing Wednesday night in Ottawa.

This also means that Korpisalo will likely draw the start, which should be bad news for Columbus should the Capitals create the amount of quality chances I am expecting.

My favorite play on the game is backing the Capitals to cover -1.5 at +115, and I would play that down to +105. I also lean toward the over at 6.5 but feel more confident taking a plus number looking for a big Capitals victory.

Confirmation of Vanecek in goal for the Caps would be a bonus. However, I would play the Caps to cover -1.5 either way at +115, and even should Samsonov start, I don’t expect to see a better number.

Pick: Washington Capitals -1.5 +115

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