For all intents and purposes, the Columbus Blue Jackets
have been eliminated from the playoffs. But they can still play the role of
spoiler if they are up to it as the eight-seeded Chicago Blackhawks visit.
The Blackhawks desperately need points to keep ahead of
the ninth-place Dallas Stars, who are three points behind with a game in hand.
Facing the listless Blue Jackets, Chicago should be able to find those points
in the form of a win.
Blackhawks Can Win Because…:
The Blue Jackets are tapping out right now.
At the end of February, they were in the thick of the
playoff race but they have just three wins in their last 17 games, which has
dropped them to 14th in the Western Conference. Their only win in
their last six came against the similarly hapless Florida Panthers.
The Blackhawks are fighting for their playoff lives and
will have far more urgency in this contest. Overall, they are the better team.
Chicago has won six of their last eight in Columbus and
one of the main reasons they have so much success there is because the two
teams tend to get into shootouts. The Blackhawks biggest flaw this year has
been in net and if the game comes down to outscoring their opponent, they are
general in good shape.
Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason has given up 38 goals
in 12 career starts versus the Blackhawks, which boils down to a GAA of 3.21.
Mason hast just two wins in 11 tries this month so hitting those averages shouldn’t
be a problem for the Blackhawks.
Chicago might be 4-3 in their last seven but their three
losses have come to playoff-caliber teams (Dallas, Anaheim and Boston). The Columbus Blue Jackets are not that, which should pave the way for a win.
The Columbus Blue
Jackets Can Win Because…:
The Chicago Blackhawks are inconsistent.
They are the reigning, defending Stanley Cup champions
and while there are just six games remaining in their season, there’s a chance
that they won’t even be in the playoffs. They are clinging to the last seed in
the West and a couple of more losses might keep them from defending their
Goaltending has been a problem for them at times this
season but rookie Corey Crawford has been steady lately. Crawford has given up
just eight goals in his last five games but now the issue has been scoring.
Part of that is because leading goal scorer Patrick Sharp
is out while grinding center Dave Bolland is also missing from the lineup.
Overall, Chicago is a team that can’t seem to sustain any
momentum. You just don’t know what kind of effort they will put forward, which
is always a concern for bettors when they have to lay money with them.
Outlook & NHL
It’s an uncomfortable position to be in as an NHL handicapper for
this contest. Must win doesn’t mean will win, and how comfortable are you
laying juice with a Blackhawks team on the road that has lost you nine units of
your money if you’ve been betting them all season?
Truth be told, they should win this game. The Blackhawks
have outscored the Blue Jackets 23-14 in the five meetings this season and they
have won six of eight in Columbus. The Blue Jackets are pitiful right now and
are playing their third game in four nights.
Don’t be the farm, but do stick with the Blackhawks in