It’s never wise to simply bet on streaky teams and fade cold ones — especially given the bouncy nature of hockey where goaltending can win or lose you any given night.
But there’s more behind the curtain in regards to the Penguins’ recent spark and the Blue Jackets’ slump.
Pittsburgh didn’t get the auspicious start it was hoping for with the blue-chip addition of Erik Karlsson to the back end.
After missing the playoffs for the first time since Sidney Crosby’s rookie season in 2006, the Penguins dropped six of their first nine games and sunk to last place in the Metropolitan Division.
They have now won four straight by outscoring the opposition 20-5, and are back in the thick of the race.
Granted, half of those goals were potted against a helpless Sharks team that is on pace to have a historically lousy campaign.
Even so, the Pens lead all of hockey with 3.2 expected goals per 60 minutes. They allow 2.5 expected goals against, which is low enough to put them in an exclusive club of teams with ratios in that territory.
Pittsburgh has three players averaging more than 3.5 shots (Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust), which spearheads the league-leading 35 it is generating on a nightly basis. It’s a dominant puck-possessing team at No. 8 overall in shot attempt differential at five-on-five play.
Columbus returns home to host the Penguins after losing 10 of its last 11.
Its freshest wound just came by way of letting a victory slip away with 11 seconds to go against the Rangers. The Jackets had no answers for fending off New York’s pesky forecheck and it cost them a point in a shootout loss.
I expect the Penguins to exploit Columbus in a similar nature Tuesday. The Jackets have a tough time sustaining offensive-zone time — they live on the other end of the spectrum than Pittsburgh with 2.88 expected goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five, which puts them down in the dog house.
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Plus, Columbus’ goaltending hasn’t been consistent. It sports a sub .900 team save percentage and has surrendered the most rebound goals against in the NHL.
I’m striking while the iron is hot as Crosby shepherds a shooting clinic for two big division points amid Pittsburgh’s positive regression.
THE PLAY: Penguins -1.5 goals (+140 at BetMGM)