Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks NHL Preview

Kevin Lankinen of the Blackhawks
Kevin Lankinen #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks makes a save.

 

The Blue Jackets will skate into the Windy City on Friday night to take on the Blackhawks in the first of two-weekend games. Let’s analyze this matchup and keep cashing tickets in our NHL picks!

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Friday, January 29, 2021 – 8:00 PM ET at United Center, Chicago, IL

The Blue Jackets dropped a 4-3 shootout against the Panthers on Tuesday but rebounded with a 3-2 shootout victory over Florida on Thursday. Twenty-one-year-old Alexandre Texier delivered a silky-smooth, cool as the other side of the pillow, game-winning goal in the shootout frame that has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

“Probably our most consistent guy,” coach John Tortorella said. “He turns one over and it costs us a goal (in the second period). I’m glad he got an opportunity to redeem himself. It was a great goal (in the shootout).”

Columbus goalie, Elvis Merzlikins, had an excellent night between the pipes, saving 33 of 35 shots and pitched a shutout in the overtime and shootout stanzas.

“I mean, it’s like gambling,” said Merzlikins, who improved to 2-1-1. “Either you’re lucky or you’re not, so tonight luck was on my side, so I’m happy about that. I like (shootouts) when I win. When I lose, I hate them.”

The Blue Jackets’ offense has struggled in the early going, scoring an average of just 2.50 goals per game while not surprisingly their power play has been anemic as well, connecting on just 9.1 percent of their opportunities which ranks them 26th of 31 teams.

At the other end of the ice, Columbus’s 2.88 goals-against average places them in the middle of the pack but their penalty killing has been a bright spot, extinguishing 88.2 percent of their opponents’ power plays, ranking them sixth in that category.

Hawks Struggling

Chicago has not had an easy time of it this season. It didn’t get any better earlier this week when they spent two consecutive nights battling the Predators in Nashville, only to bow 3-2 in overtime and then 2-1 in a shootout.

The Blackhawks lost the time of possession battle to the Preds in both games, which led to a losing effort in back-to-back contests. Goalie Kevin Lankinen was outstanding in the latter of the two games, with Malcolm Subban tending the twine in the first.

Chicago’s coach, Jeremy Colliton, said after Wednesday night’s 2-1 shootout loss, “I’m fairly happy with the effort. We’d like to give up a little less and create a little bit more. But the first two periods, we — through our tracking — gave up one even-strength chance. They had a few in the third; [in] overtime, we had more than our share. Overall, I’m going to focus on the response of the team. They played hard.”

Wanna Make a Bet?

The NHL odds on this game range from Columbus -125 to -130, depending on where you shop for your lines. The first thing we must consider is the recent schedules of each team. Although Chicago had two consecutive games that went beyond regulation, they were able to return home and take the day off on Thursday.

However, Columbus is also coming off a pair of shootouts, and they haven’t had a chance to come up for air as they edged the Panthers last night but had to hop a flight to Chicago for tonight’s contest. That’s a big deal and it is one that will give the Blackhawks a big boost.

Moreover, if Kevin Lankinen gets the nod over Subban – or Collin Delia for that matter – then I like Chicago’s chances even more. Lankinen is the best of the three, and soon he will be getting the lion’s share of the work because he is a clear-cut NHL starter, while Subban has proven he is not, and the verdict is still out on Delia.

Columbus is simply not explosive enough to lay the lumber on the road against virtually anyone, at least not at this juncture. Let’s grab the live home dog and get a decent price over at Bet365, and let’s keep cashing those tickets.

Free NHL Pick: Blackhawks +110 at Bet365

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