Defense meets offense tonight in Brooklyn as the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the New York Islanders in a battle of Metropolitan Division rivals.
With the 29th-ranked attack in the NHL, any winning the Blue Jackets have done this season has been done squarely on the back of reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Meanwhile, the Islanders come into this game below .500 despite boasting the third-most goals in the NHL this season, thanks to a leaky defense that ranks dead lost in the league.
Let’s check out the odds for this game, then take a closer look at each of these squads to see where the betting value lies tonight for our NHL pick of the week.
Although these 2 teams are tied in the standings and the Blue Jackets are below .500 on the road while the Islanders have a winning record at home, oddsmakers have taken the bold stand of making Columbus a -120 road favorite on the moneyline.
Well, that’s where the odds stood at the time of writing, at least. Columbus actually opened at BetOnline as a slight underdog at even money, but early betting support on the Jackets drove that line to as high as -125 on Tuesday morning before some money came back on the Islanders.
As has become a custom with Islanders games this season, the Over/Under has been set much higher than the average NHL contest. At the time of writing, the total for this clash stood at 6 with -113 juice on the Over, and it won’t be a surprise to see the line move to 6.5 later in the day. The Jackets paid +230 odds on the -1.5 puck line, while you’d have to lay -275 on the Islanders +1.5.
After they enjoyed their best season in franchise history last year and then added talented sniper Artemi Panarin over the summer, the Blue Jackets were expected by many to once again contend for top spot in the Eastern Conference. But it’s been a frustrating season in Columbus because the Jackets simply haven’t been able to score enough goals to win on a consistent basis.
Despite being 8th in the NHL in Corsi For (total shots attempted per game while playing at even strength) and 3rd in the league in shots on net, Columbus has averaged just 2.6 goals per game thanks to a league-low shooting percentage of 7.5%. Frustration probably boiled over after the Jackets’ most recent visit to the Islanders, when Columbus outshot its hosts 26-12 in the first period and 49-38 on the night, yet fell 4-3 to the worst defensive team in the NHL.
To their credit, the Blue Jackets haven’t been discouraged by their lack of offensive issues and have kept on firing, blistering another 50 shots at the Devils cage on Saturday. This time, they were rewarded with 6 goals, the most they’ve scored in a game in nearly 2 months. Seeing the puck go in the net that many times should be a real confidence boost for the Columbus forwards, and they’ve got a perfect opportunity to build on that performance with a visit to the leaky Islanders tonight.
When you’re routinely giving up at least 3 goals per night, it feels like your only chance to win is by scoring as many goals as possible. That appears to be the mentality of the Islanders right now, who don’t seem to be concerned about the alarming number of shots they continue to allow.
In 8 of New York’s last 10 games, the Islanders have allowed 39 shots or more. They even surrendered 50 shots in one of those outings, a 6-0 loss at Toronto. No wonder, then, that they’ve been gashed for 30 goals in their last 7 games.
The worst part is, for all the chances the Islanders are giving up, they’re not really generating that much at the other end. They’ve been held under 30 shots themselves in 6 of their last 8 games, and the only times they’ve outshot their opponent over the last 3 weeks were when they were facing the Sabres and Coyotes, two of the worst teams in the league.
In fact, if it weren’t for a miraculous comeback on Friday against Detroit (when the Islanders scored 4 goals on a 5-minute power play late in the third period), New York would come into this game with 6 losses in its last 7 games.
If you simply look at the standings, you’d think these were pretty evenly-matched teams and might even favor the Islanders based on their superior record on home ice this season. They also both have plenty of motivation, entering action tonight 1 point behind Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
However, these teams are playing drastically different qualities of hockey, and have been for some time. While Columbus continues to outchance opponents and has been snake-bitten by a low shooting percentage that is due for some upward correction, the Islanders are being dominated on the shot clock and don’t have nearly good enough goaltending to overcome it.
Columbus has a huge advantage when it comes to netminding, and the Jackets come into this game finally feeling good on offense for a change. I agree with the early line move on the Blue Jackets and think there’s still more than enough value to back Columbus here, making our NHL pick of the week the Columbus Blue Jackets moneyline at -120 odds.
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