Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Washington Capitals - 12/18/14 NHL Pick, Odds, and Prediction
Washington Capitals (14-10-6) at Columbus Blue Jackets (13-15-2)
NHL Hockey: Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 7:00 pm (Nationwide Arena)
The Line: Columbus Blue Jackets / Washington Capitals --- Over/Under: See the Latest Odds
Don't look now, but climbing their way up the standings in the Eastern Conference are the Columbus Blue Jackets. After a miserable, injury riddled start to the season the Blue Jackets have now won seven consecutive games and find themselves just six points out of the final playoff spot. What we've seen recently is the hard work that has helped build this roster over the past few years finally paying off and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky finding his game. Tuesday's 1-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings was just the most recent in excellent play for Bobrovsky who is now 12-8-1 on the season and slowly seeing his save percentage and goals against average creep up. The game that jumps to mind when thinking about Bobrovsky during this stretch has to be his performance in Florida against the Panthers in which he stopped 52 shots and allowed his team to steal a victory in the shootout. Sometimes a team needs a game like that from their netminder to really snap them into reality and show them just how badly they're hanging him out to dry. Bobrvosky didn't wilt under the pressure and instead willed his team to victory, and now the Blue Jackets are doing their best to help Bobrovsky get this team back into contention. Six of the seven victories during this winning streak have been by one goal, with five of them coming in extra time and three of those in the shootout. If you throw an overtime loss in there and a couple of shootout losses in as well then this run doesn't look all that impressive, but in a league in which parody can be seen up and down the standings it's so important to be able to accumulate points in games like that. The schedule does not get any easier for the Blue Jackets who at least will be getting Fedor Tyutin back, but with matches against Washington, Chicago, Nashville, Boston, and Minnesota coming up to end the month they are going to need all the help they can get. We saw what this team was capable of last season when they were firing on all cyclinders, and if they had a few more goal scorers they probably would've taken out the Pittsburgh Penguins in round one of the post season. This is a club that is doing what it has to do in order to survive these injuries, but unless more reinforcements are on the way it's hard to see them sustaining this play.
The Washington Capitals area coming off a game that set an NHL record for longest shootout in their 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. The two clubs when 20 rounds before Nick Bjugstad finally won it for the home team. Troy Brouwer's ninth goal of the season in the second period tied the game at 1-1 but the Capitals really struggled to create much offense in this game and it ended up costing them. The Capitals had just 24 shots total for the game, including three in the final period. Washington has still won four of their last six games but with the red hot New York Rangers playing well they now find themselves outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Their 5-2-3 stretch over their last 10 games pretty much sums up the type of club the Capitals are right now. This is a team that is extremely difficult to read and it's hard to see them going on long winning streaks or losing streaks. The key for the Capitals is going to be finding a way to extend some of those positive streaks and not let any of the negative ones last for too long. In the Eastern Conference there is plenty of opportunity and Washington has the ability to be a playoff team if they can just find some consistency moving forward. Braden Holtby has been slightly below average this season and they're really going to need him to elevate his game if they want to be a team that can make a serious run. Washington is mediocre throughout the lineup and their record certainly reflects that.
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These two teams are extremely hard to predict right now so Thursday night's match up should be an interesting one. Columbus appears to be getting by on smoke and mirrors right now but that's fine with them as long as they keep racking up these points. Washington needs more from Alex Ovechkin and if the Blue Jackets can stay out of the penalty box they should be able to do enough to contain him and secure the win.