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Blue Jackets Open as +185 Underdogs vs Lightning in First Round of Playoffs

Joonas Korpisalo
After recording a pair of shutout victories over Toronto in the qualifying round, goaltender Joonas Korpisalo leads the Columbus Blue Jackets into a rematch with the Tampa Bay Light in first-round NHL playoff action. Photo by @TSD_NHL (Twitter)
  • After upsetting the Toronto Maple Leafs in their qualifying series, the Columbus Blue Jackets now battle the Tampa Bay Lightning as lengthy underdogs on the NHL playoff series prices
  • The Blue Jackets will be looking to repeat their success of last season when they swept the Lightning in four games in a shocking opening-round upset
  • We’ve got you covered with the odds and storylines ahead of the start of the is Eastern Conference matchup on Tuesday night

The Columbus Blue Jackets will have a chance to hand Tampa Bay an early playoff exit for a second straight year when they open their first round matchup with the Lightning as +185 underdogs on the NHL playoff series prices.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Tampa Bay Lightning Series Odds

Team Odds at DraftKings
Columbus Blue Jackets +185
Tampa Bay Lightning -225

Odds taken Aug. 10

Blue Jackets Continue to Overachieve

Losers in 12 of their final 15 contests to close out the abbreviated regular season, the Blue Jackets returned to stingy form in their qualifying round. The club bounced the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs in five games, setting the stage for a playoff rematch with Tampa Bay that gets underway with Tuesday night’s Game 1 matchup at Scotiabank Arena.

The Blue Jackets showed signs of shaking off the offensive woes that marked their season-ending swoon. Columbus shooters averaged a meager 2.27 goals per game over their 15 regular season contests, and just two total goals in the first two games of their series with Toronto, but showed steady improvement as the series progressed, scoring 10 total goals over the final three games.

Stingy Defense, Goaltending Key to Jackets Success

In addition, the Columbus defense stood tall against the Maple Leafs, who scored the third-most goals in the NHL during the regular season. Playing a frustrating defensive style, the Blue Jackets gave up just three total goals to Toronto in five-on-five situations, with goaltender Joonas Korpisalo recording shutouts both in Game 1 and in Game 5.

The Blue Jackets hope to continue their stingy play as they move on to their second straight first round series clash with the Lightning. For Columbus fans, the memory remains strong of their club’s shocking sweep of Tampa Bay in last season’s opening round, bringing a screeching halt to the Lightning’s spectacular 128-point season.

With Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes, the Blue Jackets outscored the Lightning by a wide 19-8 margin in an impressive upset victory. However, much has changed over the past year. In addition to Bobrovsky, Columbus is also without Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, who combined to tally five goals and seven assists in the sweep.

Spotty Offense Cause for Concern

While Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins have stepped up to the fill the void left by Bobrovsky’s departure as a free agent, mounting a sustained offensive attack against a Lightning defense that will likely be much tougher than Toronto’s will be a massive challenge for the Blue Jackets.

Pierre-Luc Dubois emerged as the biggest scoring threat in the series against the Maple Leafs, potting a team-high three goals, all in Game 3, but has largely struggled when facing Tampa Bay, scoring just once in 11 all-time appearances against the Lightning.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Tampa Bay Lightning Stats

Columbus Blue Jackets
Tampa Bay Lightning

5th in Metropolitan Division (81 points) NHL Standings 2nd in Atlantic Division (92 points)
2.57 Regular season goals per game 3.50
2.67 Regular season goals against per game 2.79
2-5-3 Head-to-head record in past 10 overall meetings 4-4-2

Lightning Earn No. 2 Seed by Razor-Thin Margin

Fortunately for the Blue Jackets, the Lightning face some issues of their own heading into the first round. In addition to sporting the second-best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, Tampa Bay also led the NHL in scoring, averaging 3.50 goals per game. However, nailing down the No. 2 seed in the East during last week’s round robin was far from an easy task.

The Lightning needed a shootout to get past Washington with a 3-2 win in their round robin, and followed that up with a razor-thin 3-2 victory over Boston on the strength of a Tyler Johnson goal with under 90 seconds remaining in regulation.

Injuries to Stamkos, Hedman a Big Blow

The absence of team captain Steven Stamkos was clearly felt as the club scored just seven total goals in the round robin, capped by a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia in Saturday’s finale. And the loss of Victor Hedman to an ankle injury early on against the Flyers further complicates matters.

Hedman has been a force at both ends of the ice for Tampa Bay. The 29-year-old racked up 55 points in 66 games this season and is the clear leader and a punishing force on the club’s blue line.

Lightning Enduring Prolonged Playoff Scoring Slump

Tampa Bay experienced a worrisome dip in production while falling to defeat in seven of their final 10 regular season contests, and have averaged just 2.85 goals per game over their past 13 total contests. The Lightning also narrowly escaped with a 2-1 overtime win in their only meeting with the Blue Jackets this season. Considering they have also tallied just 15 total goals over their past nine playoff outings, a run that began with a pair of shutout losses to the Capitals in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, the Lightning must find a way to spark their offense.

On the plus side, this is a battle-hardened Lightning squad that has advanced at least as far as the Conference Finals in three of the past four years. And with a score to settle against a far less experienced Blue Jackets, this series takes on additional significance. Expect a lengthy series, with Tampa Bay eventually dispatching the feisty Blue Jackets in six games.

Picks: Lightning in 6 (+400)

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