Lightning vs. Blue Jackets: Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Lightning vs Blue Jackets NHL
Tampa Bay vs. Columbus, Amalie Arena

The Tampa Bay Lightning are in the midst of one of their worst stretches of hockey during the regular season in a long time. They are 7-8-0 in their last 15 games and have alternated wins and losses in their last seven outings. The good news is they host the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are in a freefall, on Sunday. The Blue Jackets have lost eight straight games since beating Tampa Bay on April 6, and have lost 15 of their last 17 games overall. If the Lightning can’t take advantage at home Sunday, it will say a lot about the status of this team heading into the postseason.

Free Picks

I rarely go for a player with the type of short odds that Brayden Point has at the legal sports betting sites in New Jersey. However, with Steven Stamkos out of the lineup, there are fewer options on the Lightning roster who are scoring consistently. Point has scored in four of his last six games and has points in five of Tampa Bay’s seven games over the past two weeks. The +133 odds aren’t the prettiest, but I needed to someone reliable in this spot and Point fits the bill. He leads the Lightning with 20 goals and he’s filled in well since Stamkos’ injury. It won’t be a huge profit builder, but it’s at least a nice return on investment when he does score Sunday.

BRAYDEN POINT SCORES GOAL

The train wreck that is the Columbus Blue Jackets has been such a disaster on offense recently. Columbus has score one goal in four of the last five games, and it scored just twice in the other game. Tampa Bay has one of the best goalies in the NHL and still have a good defensive structure, even if it hasn’t been at its best recently. The Blue Jackets’ lack of scoring threats are also a big reason I like this play, even though the hockey betting sites in New Jersey are offering just +150 odds on the wager. The bolder version of myself would bet on Tampa Bay pitching a shutout at +600 odds, but the Lightning have posted just one shutout in their last 27 games, and Columbus has scored in nine straight games.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS UNDER 1.5 GOALS

If you’re going to find value betting on the Lightning to win, you have to be aggressive that they are going to do so in a big way. The Lightning have only covered a -2.5-goal spread twice in their last 20 games, so it’s a large risk for just +155 odds from the NHL betting sites in New Jersey. However, Tampa Bay is in need of a big performance in order to stay competitive in the Central Division and the Blue Jackets have been a mess during this eight-game losing skid. Half of Columbus’ 14 losses during this recent 17-game stretch have come by at least three goals and the Lightning are the defending champions playing on home ice. It’s a smart enough risk that Tampa Bay can dominate this game and win by at least three goals.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING -2.5 GOALS

Best Odds

Tampa Bay Columbus
888Sport
-295 +235
FanDuel
-335 +270
BetMGM
-275 +230

Statistics

Head to Head

This is the eighth and final meeting this season between Tampa Bay and Columbus, and the Lightning hold a slim 4-3 lead in the season series thus far.

Stats

  • Over the last 17 games, Columbus is 2-13-2 and is being outscored by nearly a 2:1 ratio. The Blue Jackets are allowing 3.7 goals per game over that stretch and have scored just 1.9 in those contests. Focusing on the current eight-game skid, Columbus is allowing 4.4 goals per game and scoring just twice per game.
  • The last 15 games have been uncharacteristically poor from the Lightning statistically. Tampa Bay has allowed at least four goals in eight of its last 15 games after having seven such games in the first 32 contests this season. The Lightning still rank highly in most offensive categories this season, but they are scoring half a goal less during this stretch than their season average.
  • Early in the season, the trade for Patrik Laine seemed to be paying dividends for Columbus as he scored six goals and added four assists in his first 10 games with the team. Over the next 29 games, however, Laine has just four goals and four assists and had a -23 plus/minus rating for the Blue Jackets.
  • Victor Hedman is the Norris Trophy candidate defenseman who does a lot for the Lightning as the team’s leader in points with 42. However, even he has slipped a bit this month defensively despite his two goals and seven assists in April. Hedman has a shocking -9 plus/minus rating in 12 games this month with just four games of an even or positive plus/minus rating.

Our Prediction for Tampa Bay vs. Columbus

Tampa Bay Lightning to win

As poor as the Tampa Bay Lightning have played recently, they still are doing enough to win on many nights, even if it isn’t the prettiest. The fact this game is in Tampa and the end of a six-game road trip for the Columbus Blue Jackets leads me to believe the Lightning can win consecutive games for the first time in two weeks. Columbus has lost eight straight and 11 of its last 12 games for a multitude of reasons and I suspect those issues will be at the forefront again Sunday. Tampa Bay knows it needs to finish the season strong to carry some momentum into what will be a difficult playoff trek to repeat as champions, and that effort must start Sunday at home against a struggling Blue Jackets squad.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

All Reviews by Josh Walfish

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