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Sunday NHL Odds, Picks, Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Betting Preview

Sunday NHL Odds, Picks, Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Betting Preview article feature image
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Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Pittsburgh Penguins standout Mike Matheson.

  • The Columbus Blue Jackets host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Sunday's NHL showdown.
  • The Penguins are heavy -225 road favorites, but that hasn't deterred Grant White from backing them ahead of this clash.
  • Check out below why he's willing to lay the big number in this meeting.

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets Odds

Penguins Odds -225
Blue Jackets Odds +190
Over/Under 6.5
Time 6 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Pittsburgh Penguins play on the road for the second night of a back-to-back when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets in Sunday’s NHL showdown.

The Blue Jackets are slightly more rested than the Penguins since they had having Saturday off. Still, this will be their third game in four nights after the team played two in a row Thursday and Friday, splitting those contests against a pair of Eastern Conference juggernauts.

A few factors support the visitors are the side to back in this interesting Metropolitan Division matchup.

Pittsburgh Penguins

From the start of the year, the Penguins have been one of the most dominant NHL teams from an analytical perspective. Pittsburgh has the sixth-best expected goals-for rating at 5-on-5, improving its overall rating by outplaying its last five opponents. Over that stretch, Pittsburgh has established a 57.0% rating, outperforming their opponents on both ends of the ice.

During their assertive five-game stretch, the Penguins have out-chanced their foes in high-danger chances in four of five outings. Pittsburgh forces opponents to take low-quality shots, limiting them to six or fewer quality chances in three of five games. Scoring chances are at a premium as well, with no opponent attempting more than 24 in a game.

We’re also anticipating progression from the Penguins offense. As noted, the Pens continue to dictate pace and control play, but they haven’t translated that to increased output. Pittsburgh has been limited to five goals at five-on-five during its recent sample and has been held scoreless in each of the past two outings. Goals should flow more organically for the Penguins as output catches up with production.

The one misstep Pittsburgh made was starting primary goalie Tristan Jarry yesterday against the New York Rangers. Analytics dictates that saving the primary goalie for the second night of the back-to-back is preferred, as fatigue could prevent the Penguins from putting forth a sincere effort.

As is the case with most teams, there’s a dropoff in quality between Jarry and backup Casey DeSmith. However, the decision shouldn’t hurt the Penguins as the Jackets have been one of the worst analytics teams in the league.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have used a recent hot stretch to move themselves up the Eastern Conference standings, but they remain outside the playoff picture. More concerningly, the Jackets’ success is contraindicated in their metrics, as they remain one of the worst five-on-five teams in the league this season.

Columbus has the 30th-ranked expected goals-for percentage this season, and that’s illustrated over their recent schedule. The Jackets have been outplayed in seven of their past 10 contests, posting a cumulative 47.1% rating. However, there is a growing disconnect relative to their outcomes, as Columbus is 7-3-0 over their 10-game span. It has struck an unsustainable balance over its current schedule, and can’t continue to get outplayed and win.

One of the most significant factors impacting the Jackets’ success this season is their inability to prevent quality chances. Columbus has given up the most scoring chances and second-most high-danger opportunities so far this season. They’ve shown no signs of improvement over their recent stretch, giving up 10 or more high-danger chances in six of seven and 26 or more scoring chances in five of seven contests.

Sadly, their seven-game averages of 11.6 and 26.1 aren’t too far off their season-long ratings of 10.2 and 25.3. Somehow, Columbus continues to win games despite their metrics working against them.

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Penguins vs. Blue Jackets Pick

The Penguins are comfortable playing a tight-checking, methodical brand of hockey and should use that to facilitate Columbus’ anticipated regression. Although this scenario lends itself to an overtime game, we like the Penguins skill to prevail against the Blue Jackets.

That said, we’re backing Pittsburgh on the moneyline.

Pick: Pittsburgh ML (-225)

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