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Thursday NHL Odds & Prediction: Betting Preview for Lightning vs. Blue Jackets (April 28)

Thursday NHL Odds & Prediction: Betting Preview for Lightning vs. Blue Jackets (April 28) article feature image
Credit:

Via Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Nikita Kucherov.

  • The Blue Jackets are big home underdogs (+230 odds) against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
  • Is there value in backing Columbus on the moneyline in its final home game of the season?
  • Nicholas Martin breaks down the matchup, including why he sees value in the over/under instead of a side.

Lightning vs. Blue Jackets Odds

Lightning Odds -300
Blue Jackets Odds +230
Over/Under 6.5
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Blue Jackets will host the Lightning in their final home game of the 2021-22 campaign Thursday. The Lightning have owned the Jackets through the first two contests of this season series, with a 4-1 victory Tuesday at Amalie and a 7-2 win on Jan. 4 at Nationwide.

The Blue Jackets will look to play the role of spoiler and close out what has been a surprisingly strong campaign on home ice with a big result here. Can Columbus produce the kind of offensive night needed to cover up for its defensive woes?

Lightning Gearing Up for Another Deep Playoff Run

Tampa has clearly stepped its game up a notch heading into the postseason, which is essentially the exact same narrative we saw prior to last season’s second consecutive cup championship.

The Lightning have won four consecutive contests, led by some ridiculous offensive play generating a 6.5 Goals For per game average in those contests. All of the Lightning’s elite offensive pieces have been in excellent form of late, including a ridiculous push the last eight games from Steven Stamkos to hit 100 points for the first time.

Coach Jon Cooper has really shuffled his offensive units of late, having Stamkos center the top unit with Nikita Kucherov and dropping Brayden Point down to a second unit with Nick Paul and Ross Colton. This has resulted in a ridiculously strong third line of Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, and Brandon Hagel.

It’s hard to say if this configuration holds, but for all the talk about Tampa’s lost third unit last summer, the current iteration looks pretty incredible.

The Lightning have played to a 7.07 combined game total throughout the month of April, and although they are likely tightening up for the postseason, we have still seen a ton of higher scoring affairs.

My presumption is Andrei Vasilevskiy will rest one of the remaining games prior to the postseason, and it’s quite possible it will be this road game.

Brian Elliott has been a very capable backup this season, playing to a +3.4 Goals Saved Above Expected rating with a .914 save percentage in 18 games played.

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Blue Jackets Have Thrived at Home

Columbus has faltered down the stretch of what was always going to be a developing season, but a win here would push its home record to 21-15-5, above true .500.

Nationwide Arena has always offered an underrated atmosphere and raucous crowd, and the Blue Jackets have one of the more notable home vs. road splits in the league.

Columbus has produced offense at an effective rate all season long, with a 3.14 goals per game average. The Blue Jackets have remained right around that mark over their last 10 home contests, with a 3.30 goals per game average over that span.

The reason for their poor overall record has been the club’s awful defensive play and soft goaltending, which has been a problem all season long.

In April, the Blue Jackets have allowed a seventh-worst xGA/60 mark at even strength despite playing an easier than average slate of games altogether.

One of the sharper parts of Columbus’ game defensively had actually been its penalty kill. However, on Tuesday Tampa generated a wealth of chances on the Power Play, and I wouldn’t count on that strength showing through Thursday for Columbus.

Elvis Merzlikins will likely get the start in goal. Merzlikins has posted a +0.9 GSAx rating with with a .906 save percentage in 57 games played this season.

Lightning vs. Blue Jackets Pick

The Lightning have really kicked it into high gear, particularly on offense of late, and it should prove to be again very tough for this Blue Jackets team to keep the Lightning in check here. The Lightning’s high-end pieces will find some breakdowns in this Blue Jackets defense, even in a contest in which I am expecting a better effort than we saw Tuesday from Columbus.

The Lightning’s Power Play looked dangerous Tuesday vs. the Blue Jackets while managing one goal, and they will likely do some more damage here.

However, the Blue Jackets have consistently played much better at home this season, and they could come out with a ton of energy here in the last home outing of the season and manage a reasonable output.

Pivoting away from the Bolts -1.5, which we played Tuesday, makes sense given that the Blue Jackets could hang around enough of the time to scare me off the puck line at below plus-money.

We will likely see Elliott in goal for Tampa, which adds a little boost to the chances of a higher Columbus output as well.

Altogether in 2022, Blue Jackets home games have averaged 7.26 combined goals, with the over being very profitable. I’m not going to look for a notable change here in game 81, and there’s value backing this one to go Over 6.5 at -105. I would play it down to -120.

Pick: Over 6.5 -105 (Play to -120)

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