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NHL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi offers his prediction for Thursday's game between the Flyers and the Blue Jackets.
ANALYSIS

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Prediction: Can the Jackets Complete the Sweep?

Following a disappointing, five-game Wednesday slate, the NHL is bouncing back with 10 games on Thursday. There are a few potential spots of potential value, including this matchup between two of the bottom three teams in the Metropolitan division. Let's take a closer look.

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Philadelphia Flyers vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Prediction

The Blue Jackets (33-32-6) have had a disappointing season, with any playoff hopes being fully extinguished by a seven-game losing streak at the end of March. They snapped that streak with a 4-2 win in Philadelphia on Tuesday; the teams now travel to Columbus for the second leg of the home-and-home. The Jackets won both meetings between these teams to this point, so this game will determine whether or not they complete a sweep of the season series.

As badly as the Blue Jackets have played over the last few weeks, the Flyers easily surpass them on the "disappointment" scale. Philadelphia (22-37-11) came into the year with playoff expectations, yet they will finish the year among the favorites for the top pick in the entry draft. They are in bad form, having lost seven of their last 10 games. The Flyers also have a couple of notable injuries—Ryan Ellis and Sean Couturier—although both of them have been absent for over a month.

Both of these teams rank near the bottom of the league in terms of even-strength results. The Flyers have the 28th best 5v5 expected goals share at 45.83%, while the Blue Jackets have the 30th ranked share at 44.75%. This means that at even strength, both squads tend to concede far more offense than they generate.

Columbus is better on both special teams units than Philadelphia. The Jackets have scored on 17.8% of their power play opportunities, good for 25th in the league. That might sound poor, but it is nothing compared to the Flyers' power play, a unit that ranks dead last with a conversion rate of just 12.8%. Columbus also has a better penalty kill, one that kills off 78.2% of their penalties (Philadelphia's kill has a success rate of 76%).

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The other factor separating these teams is goaltending, a category in which the Blue Jackets hold an edge. They have received league-average goaltending from Elvis Merzlikins, who has shouldered a big load following a season-ending injury to Joonas Korpisalo. If Merzlikins sits this game out, it will not be the end of the world—J.F. Berube has been solid in relief this season. On the other side, it will be Martin Jones or Carter Hart for the Flyers. Neither is a particularly enticing option, as both have been subpar.

This is not a game on which you want to bet too many units. These teams are both near the bottom of the league by basically every relevant metric, so it is difficult to trust either one. That being said, I do believe that Columbus is a bit undervalued. Bet them down to -135 on the moneyline.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Pick

Pick: Blue Jackets ML (-125) (Bet $125 to Win $100)

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Article Author

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.

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