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Sunday NHL Odds, Picks, Prediction: New Jersey Devils vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (Oct. 31)

Sunday NHL Odds, Picks, Prediction: New Jersey Devils vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (Oct. 31) article feature image

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images. Pictured: Elvis Merzlikins.

  • The Columbus Blue Jackets host the New Jersey Devils in Sunday's NHL action.
  • This is quite an even matchup, with the Devils sitting as slight road favorites.
  • Nicholas Martin breaks down the confrontation below and makes his betting pick.

Devils vs. Blue Jackets Odds

Devils Odds-120
Blue Jackets Odds+100
Time5 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Two teams fighting for position in a very crowded Metropolitan Division playoff picture take the ice Sunday afternoon looking to claim two crucial points. New Jersey was widely expected to progress towards a possible playoff position, while the Blue Jackets were expected to fall out of the mix early, however, in the early going the team’s have produced similar results.

Can we expect New Jersey to begin its climb past Columbus in the standings tomorrow afternoon?

Devils May Not Be As Good As Record Indicates

I speculated when backing Calgary to beat New Jersey that the Devils’ 3-1 record at the time had come in very unimpressive fashion, beating the Blackhawks and Sabres in overtime Seattle playing on a back-to-back — none of the showings offering any form of dominance.

The Devils do own a 52.23% xGF, however, I feel that has been boosted by the competition for which they have played and feel that for the time being I am not going to go against my beliefs in what I have seen, as a few larger breakdowns can really curve the data as I explain here.

The goaltending has been a concern as Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathon Bernier have both missed time in the early going. Bernier may start Saturday, but either way it seems most likely Scott Wedgewood/Nico Daws will draw back in Sunday as the Devils probably would never go back-to-back with a guy coming off the IR.

Wedgewood has allowed goals on .878% of shots faced this year, and looking towards a bigger sample size the veteran holds a .901 save percentage at the NHL level altogether.

Nico Daws owns an 87.5 save percentage through two NHL starts this season, and the unproven 20-year-old realistically has to be considered below league average for the time being.

Blue Jackets Bend But Don’t Break

Columbus put together a sloppy performance, and in turn it was heavily outplayed by the Rangers Friday — as will happen if this team isn’t true to defensive form — as it is certainly not likely to steal many games with lower work rates and sloppy breakdowns.

However most nights Brad Larsen’s group has brought a great work rate, and although it has not controlled more of the overall play, the team reminds me of Barry Trotz’s Islanders squad at times, which can bend but not break defensively and avoid complete breakdowns to keep shots challenged and for the goalie to be set.

This sets up as a good spot for them to bounce back and outwork a depleted Devils roster, making it a close game which could come down to their favorable goaltending advantage.

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Blue Jackets vs. Devils Pick

Outside of these two teams’ vastly different expectations entering this season, I do not see how the Devils warrant being priced as a favorite here for a contest in which they will play without Jack Hughes, will likely ice their third-string goaltender in Scott Wedgewood and will play on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Devils came into the season as a trendy pick to compete for a playoff spot in the crowded Metropolitan Division, but that came with a lot of guessing with regards to the roster changes and potential progress from the young core, and my early read is that this group will still finish closer to the bottom of the division than the top.

Columbus has truly not been as poor as many expected, and I think it can sustain respectable results staying away from the true bottom-feeder tier of the NHL. To my eye Columbus has been better than its poor expected goals indicates, outside of a poor showing at MSG on Friday night.

Seam plays have usually been well defended, and interior shots have often come with pressure, as opposed to complete defensive breakdowns. When the bigger lapses occur, Elvis Merzlikins has been fantastic.

I love the way the powerplay sets up with Bjorkstrand and Laine’s lethal shots and Werenski quarterbacking. For me, that area of strength is sustainable. Elvis Merzlikins has been great, and should they go in the Joonas Korpisalo direction, as he is still a quality goaltender in his own right.

I am willing to get this play in early, rather than avoid potentially another poor night for the Devils, and confirmation coming to what is likely a spot for Scott Wedgewood/Nico Daws to start.

Altogether these rosters are much closer at the time being with the Devils short Jack Hughes, specifically when we consider the favorable goaltending advantage Columbus will hold here tomorrow.

This should be a very close contest and could come down to goaltending, and at plus money I am happy to back Columbus considering the spot.

Pick: Columbus ML (+105)

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