Lightning vs. Blue Jackets NHL Odds & Pick: Back Tampa Bay To Get Back on Track (April 8)

Lightning vs. Blue Jackets NHL Odds & Pick: Back Tampa Bay To Get Back on Track (April 8) article feature image

Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Nick Foligno of Columbus and Callan Foote of Tampa Bay.

  • The defending champion Lightning have hit a rough patch of the season, dropping five of seven games.
  • Columbus beat Tampa 4-2 on Tuesday after losing three games in a row.
  • Nicholas Martin likes Tampa to get back to its winning ways.

Lightning vs. Blue Jackets Odds

Lightning Odds-205
Blue Jackets Odds+172
Time | TVThursday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday and via DraftKings

Columbus will host the defending champion Lightning again Thursday night, after emerging victorious 4-2 over Tampa on Tuesday. It was a massive win for the Blue Jackets who helped keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Columbus found a way to best a Lightning team that certainly came out with some urgency Tuesday, as Jonas Korpisalo fought off some high danger chances early and allowed Columbus to find their legs and get out of the first up 1-0.  Early in the second period, an awkward exchange between Andrei Vasilevskiy and Lightning defender Ben Thomas led to a goal by Jack Roslovic and a Blue Jackets' 2-0 lead.

Columbus certainly did a good job of managing their lead from that point on, giving up few high danger chances and continuing to be highly opportunistic themselves in stretching the lead to 4-0 before a late flurry by Tampa Bay made it a 4-2 final.

While I credit Columbus for holding off a very dangerous Lightning team and finishing off their chances themselves, I would say it certainly wasn't a repeatable recipe for winning games. Tampa Bay still led the expected goals score 2.63 to 2.13, and I definitely felt that the game often would finish differently than it did. This number was not simply due to the Lightning pushing more upon going down multiple goals either, as they doubled the Blue Jackets' expected goals in the first period.

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Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

As I dug into into my losing selection of Tampa Bay on Tuesday, Columbus is league bottom in xGF% this year at 44.76. Now obviously analytics don't tell the whole story, and I'm not sitting here using that number to say Columbus has indeed been the worst in the league this year, but they aren't at the level this talented Tampa team is.  Columbus also sits third from last with a high danger chances percentage of 44.63.

Betting Analysis & Pick

You do not want to get in to the habit of picking wagers simply on the merit of thinking a strong team has to win because they are "due". I believe that it is definitely good practice to dig in and try to understand why a team should fare better than they have or understand what has caused regression.

Allow yourself to feel that you can continue to reevaluate where a team is at, specifically in the NHL where the level of a team can change drastically from season to season.  I imagine a fair number of St. Louis backers have been disappointed this season as they continued to believe the Blues to be a powerhouse, but the evidence is there that they are not exactly what they were. I do not believe this to be the case with a Tampa team that has gone 2-5 over their last seven.

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The fact that Tampa Bay was pretty unlucky to lose 4-2 in Tuesday's game doesn't have any indication on whether or not it can finish some more of their chances tomorrow, or whether Columbus can go +1.87 above their expected goals game score again. But Columbus sits dead last in xGF% at 44.76, the roster has few reasons to trend drastically upward in my opinion, and I just feel like the difference in talent on these two rosters is hard for Columbus to consistently overcome.

Tampa Bay has slipped to third in the division, but I feel that this is mainly due  to playing some rather uninspired hockey as they gear up for another deep playoff run. I am still firmly of the belief that the Lightning roster is the best in the Central, and a group like theirs certainly will not take kindly to dropping another game to Columbus.

I believe that we will see a fiery Lightning team put on a display of why they are the reigning champs tomorrow night, and I think that a price of -130 for a regulation win is very worthy of a bet, given Vasilevskiy gets the nod in net for the Lightning.

Pick: Lightning Regulation Win (-130) |

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