Blue Jackets Lack Of Game Make Red Wings Our Sharp NHL Pick

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 2:38 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016 2:38 PM UTC

When teams are not playing well, coaches and players look ahead to schedule to find team which could be slump-buster. In the last several years that club has been Columbus quite often.

The Blue Jackets created a stir a year ago in the second half with a strong finish which gave hope to this campaign, but in unbelievable 0-8 start gave way to a coaching change and while somewhat improved, Columbus remains in last place in the Metropolitan Division, right where they started.

Detroit is back home after winless four-game road trip. After ringing up six goals on Valentine's Day in victory over Boston, the Red Wings have tallied a half dozen scores over 12 periods. The NHL odds have Detroit favored but will they come through?


Columbus Has Few Answers Most Nights
It is a busy week for Columbus (24-36), having won last night at Boston, tonight in the Motor City and home games Thursday (New Jersey) and Saturday (Florida) making it four games in six days. After winning four of six mostly to piping hot rookie goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, the Jacket have returned to more typical form.

Offensively they, rank 20th in scoring at 2.52 goals a game and while they have balance with Scott Harnell (39 points)m Cam Atkinson (38) and Brandon Saad (38) all at the same scoring level, Columbus' leading scorer has the fewest points among any team leader. The Blue Jackets get very little out of the power play also, with just 32 goals and ranked 23rd in scoring percentage.

Korpisalo has played 13 straight games, thus not sure if he or someone else will be in goal against Detroit offense which fallen below the Blue Jackets at 2.50, with their six-goal outburst last night. Columbus is 13-18 SU on the road and has to dig deep.


Detroit Has to be More Aggressive in Offensive End
Early in the season under new coach Jeff Blashill, the Red Wings (29-31 SU) often played like a team not quite sure what to do on offense after playing a particular style under for coach Mike Babcock. Detroit was not possessing the puck like in the past and for the first seven weeks of the season was ranked very near the bottom of the league in shot attempts in the mid 20's.

After everyone became more familiar with what was expected, the shots started rising and so did the wins and from Jan.2 thru Feb. 10, Detroit won 10 of 16 games and picked up points 11 times to move into second place in the Atlantic Division.

The Wings were also buoyed by the great goaltending of Petr Mrazek, whose goals against was under two and he remains among the best listed fourth at 2.11 GAG.

However, during the losing streak, Detroit has been passing and not shooting, which makes them rather easy to defend and while they could have won last two contests in OT, the fact remains they did not. Against mediocre Columbus defense, it is time for Henrik Zetterberg, Dylan Larkin and Pavel Datsyuk to start firing the puck at the net with authority if they expect to stop losing streak.


What to Expect and Winner
Look for this game to come down to what team can put the puck on net. Columbus has averaged 34.5 shots after averaging 28.5 through the first 54 games and Detroit as mentioned has enjoyed more success when applying pressure on opposing defense.

The Red Wings have not always taken the Jackets seriously of late and lost eight of the previous 10 matchups after beating them regularly for years. Columbus certainly has a chance off their big scoring night and is 19-7 after tallying five or more goals and Detroit is 9-22 facing such a team. Nonetheless, the Blue Jackets defense is beatable and the Wings are desperate for a victory and for NHL picks I will call for the home team to squeak one out by a single goal.

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NHL Pick: Detroit -187
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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