NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets (October 14)
Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning continue their opening week Friday in Florida.
- Both teams are still looking to get into the win column, but Greg Liodice sees value on the total.
- He breaks down the matchup and why he's betting the over/under.
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets Odds
|Blue Jackers Odds||+150|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
On Tuesday night, the Lightning opened their season in New York against the Rangers, and it was not pretty, losing 3-1. The defending Eastern Conference Champs look to bounce back as they open it up in front of their home fans.
Similar to their opponents, the Blue Jackets did not have a pleasant opening night, after losing to Carolina 4-1. The Jackets are hoping to jump into playoff contention after a strong offseason, but it’ll be tricky in a stacked Eastern Conference.
Lightning Need Defense Now More Than Ever
Tampa is dealing with some turnaround that they’re not used to. They lost long time core piece Ondrej Palat, as well as veterans Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta who were key parts to their defense.
As good as Tampa is, I think they’re starting to feel a little burnt out from all the hockey they played the past three years. Tuesday night showed, as the Rangers manhandled them. I don’t expect guys like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, or Victor Hedman to allow this team to fall, but I don’t think they will be as dominant as they were the past three years.
The Bolts have always been consistent in the offensive zone. In their three years of dominance, they were among the top in expected goals, and high danger chances. Not only that, but they ranked eighth in preventing high danger chances as well. With the loss of McDonagh, it’ll be interesting to see if they continue to position themselves there.
The goaltending situation, barring injuries, will always be set in stone. After leading the Bolts to two Stanley Cup titles (and three appearances), Andrei Vasilevskiy continues to be a top-two goaltender in this league. Last season “Vasy” put up his usual outstanding numbers in 63 starts with a .916 SV% and a second best 28.4 GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expected).
Blue Jackets Will be Shorthanded
Columbus is one of the teams to look out for. After striking gold in the offseason by snagging Johnny Gaudreau, the Blue Jackets are a team on the rise. Last season, it seemed as if they were just one piece away from making serious progress in the East.
While losing guys like Oliver Bjorkstrand and Max Domi hurts, the talent is still there. Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek will certainly benefit from the addition of Gaudreau, along with rookies Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger. They’re also very talented on the back end with Zach Werenski and Adam Boqvist.
One thing to note: Laine was injured Wednesday against Carolina. He won't be available for 3-4 weeks, so that greatly affects Columbus' outlook.
Despite the decent season last year, the Jackets were the second-worst team at driving play. They had an expected goals rate of 44.21% and were also the second-worst team at generating high danger chances.
To top it all off, they were a below average team on the power play, scoring at an 18.6% rate. Last year they had a ton of finishers, not enough playmakers. But after signing Gaudreau, I expect their expected goals rate to rise.
Elvis Merzlikins was supposed to be the starter on opening night, but came down with an illness. We shall know more towards game time, but it’ll either be him or backup Daniil Tarasov. Merzlikins was a very efficient goaltender for a season that was fairly up and down for the Jackets.
The Latvian netminder posted solid numbers with a .907 SV% and a +4.0 GSAx. Tarasov last year, only started in three games but looked solid with a close to .940 SV% and a +2.6 GSAx. He struggled on Wednesday, but his defense wasn’t a help.
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets Pick
Tampa didn’t exactly have a great showing against the Rangers, which makes me think they may have to lean on Vasilevskiy a little more than they have in the past. The Bolts have consistently been one of the top defensive teams, but losing a stalwart like McDonagh may have created a hole on the back end.
Columbus is in similar shape as the Carolina Hurricanes made mince meat out of them to start the season. I’d definitely be concerned about the Laine injury. He didn’t practice on Thursday, and he was their only scorer on Wednesday before getting hurt. Defensively, they were abysmal, allowing 3.16 expected goals and 14 high danger chances.
Had Tampa not had a brick wall in net like Vasilevskiy, I would’ve leaned into picking the over here. I expect the Bolts to bounce back here, but I don’t anticipate a high scoring bout tonight.
Pick: Under 6 (+100)