NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets (Jan. 4)
Mike Carlson/Getty Images. Pictured: Brayden Point
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets Odds
|Blue Jackets Odds||+175|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning will both look to right the ship after horrible losses on Tuesday night.
The Jackets had a 4-0 lead on home ice against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday before allowing seven straight goals leading to a 7-4 defeat, while the Lightning have lost three and have allowed 15 goals along the way.
Despite their downtick in form, the Lightning are massive favorites on the road on Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay Is Going Through a Wobble
Outside of Nikita Kucherov’s long-term injury, the Lightning are pretty much healthy now that Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy have returned to the lineup.
After losing Kucherov and Point to injuries early on in the season, a lot of pressure fell onto the shoulders of Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Vasilevskiy and all three stars responded in kind. Stamkos leads the team with 39 points and 16 goals, while Hedman is not too far back with 34 points himself. Point has also been superb when he’s been healthy, potting 10 goals and tallying eight assists in 20 games.
But this team would not be where it is in the standings without Vasilevskiy, who has once again put up Vezina-worthy numbers. The 27-year-old Russian is 17-5-3 with a .925 save percentage (SV%) and a +13.9 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in 25 games.
Vasilevskiy didn’t look entirely comfortable in his first game back from Covid-19 protocol on Sunday, but it’s hard to bet against the world’s best goaltender rounding back into form sooner rather than later.
The Lightning lead the NHL with a 57.1% high-danger chance rate and only allow 9.69 high-danger chances against per 60 minutes this season.
The Blue Jackets Are Trending Down
The Columbus Blue Jackets have found ways to compete all season long, but there is no doubt that they are beginning to regress. Their loss against the Hurricanes on New Year’s Day was absolutely gut-wrenching.
This may come as a surprise to some people, but the Blue Jackets have actually been above average offensively this season. The Jackets are averaging 3.2 goals scored per game, which has them ranked 11th in the NHL, but they aren’t getting a ton of high-danger chances. Columbus ranks 28th with 9.61 high-danger chances per 60 minutes, while generating 29.4 shots on goal.
Columbus has the fourth-best shooting percentage (9.28) at 5-on-5 this season, which is a bit surprising and should come down to earth at some point.
The Jackets will get Oliver Bjorkstrand back from Covid-19 protocols, but they have plenty of other injury concerns. Zach Werenski, the team’s No. 1 defenseman, is in protocol, while starting goaltender Elvis Merzlikins is also questionable.
After a terrific start to the season, Merzlikins has fallen off his game of late and is now 12-8-1 with a -0.7 GSAx and a .907 save percentage. Columbus’ defense is doing him no favors, though, and ranks 31st in expected goals allowed and 30th in scoring chances allowed at 5-on-5.
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets Pick
The Lightning have been incredibly steady throughout the first three months of the season, so I don’t expect this losing streak to drag on much longer.
And while Columbus has skated to an admirable 9-3-1 record on home ice, the Lightning have a nearly identical record on the road and have significant advantages in this matchup. The biggest is on offense where the Bolts should have no issues generating scoring chances against a defense that ranks in the bottom 10 at suppressing quality looks.
The Jackets are a plucky bunch and should never be written off, but I trust that Tampa Bay can get margin and win this one comfortably.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning to win in regulation -145