The Pittsburgh Penguins will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, and finish off their season visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets. It is time to continue our NHL odds series with a Penguins-Blue Jackets prediction, pick, and how to watch.

The last time the Penguins missed the playoffs Sydney Crosby was a rookie, but at age 35, he is still producing. His production, combined with Malkin and Letang led fans to expect another playoff run, but that was not to come. Fans are now demanding changes be made in the front office.  The Blue Jackets are the worst team in the NHL this year, and with two games left in the season, will be the worst in the Eastern Conference and bottom three in the NHL. While the future draft position is nice, there is a lot of work to do in Columbus.

Here are the Penguins-Blue Jackets NHL odds, courtesy of FanDuel

NHL Odds: Penguins-Blue Jackets Odds

Pittsburgh Penguins: -1.5 (+114)

Columbus Blue Jackets: +1.5 (-137)

Over: 6.5 (-130)

Under: 6.5 (+106)

How To Watch Penguins vs. Blue Jackets



Time: 7:00 PM ET/ 4:00 PM PT

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Why The Penguins Could Cover The Spread

It is a fair question to ask, how much fight will the Penguins show in this game? The core of this team is used to going to the playoffs every year, and this will be the first time for many of them to play in a game with no implications. The Penguins had a chance to get there, facing the lowly Chicago Blackhawks.

They played a great first period but did not score in the first or second, to be down 1-0 entering the third. The power play struck 5:28 into the third period as Malkin hit his 27th goal of the year. Then Chicago scored twice in 26 seconds to take a 3-1 lead, and an empty netter ended any chance of a comeback. The Penguins held the Blackhawks to just 27 shots while shooting 40 times of their own, but it was not enough.

As the Penguins head into the off-season, they need to answer a lot of questions. First of all, this is the oldest roster in the NHL. While the Penguins will most likely not move on from the core of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang, they need to get younger pieces around them. The top point scorer outside of those three was Jake Guentzel, who is 28. He is the youngest player inside the top ten in points for the Penguins, and one of only two under the age of 30. The Penguins must get younger, as they have clearly run out of gas.

Then there is the goalie situation. Tristan Jarry is expected to get the start tonight. He is a pending free agent, and when healthy has been inconsistent at best. His last five games show just that. In two games he saved more than 95% of the shots he faced and got the Penguins two wins. In the other three, he was under 89% and the Penguins lost them all.

Why The Blue Jackets Could Cover The Spread

The Blue Jackets have been decimated by injuries this year. Boone Jenner, Lane Pederson, Patrick Laine, Jake Bean, and Justin Danforth are just a few of the litany they have had just recently. Even when they were healthy at the start of the year, the Blue Jackets started slowly, losing nine of their first 12 games. They struggled to score all year, ranking 30th in the NHL with 2.54 goals per game.  The Jackets were 26th in the NHL in shots on goal and had the worst shooting percentage in the league. The Power play was bottom ten in the league as well, only converting 18.3% of the time.

The goaltending situation was also horrid. They allowed 4.01 goals per game, had a save percentage of .891, and were the only team in the NHL this year without a shutout. This is not all on the goalie though. The Columbus defense needs an upgrade. They traded Vladislav Gavrikov, while David Jiricek and Adam Boqvist did not show they could replace him. No player on the team had a positive plus/minus rating on the season, including Justin Richards who played just two games for the Blue Jackets.

Elvis Merzlinkins is still out for the Blue Jackets, so they will most likely turn to Michael Hutchinson tonight in goal. He has lost his last six starts and has just one win in his nine starts on the season. He only has one start on the season with a save percentage of over .900, but he lost that game in overtime to the Boston Bruins.

Final Penguins-Blue Jackets Prediction & Pick

The Blue Jackets are awful, but the Penguins have nothing to play for. They were out of gas and exhausted in the back stretch of the season. It will be interesting to see if they come out with fire even though they are now eliminated from the playoffs. Still, Columbus cannot defend, and the Penguins have enough talent, even if tired, to score. They get a few goals tonight and get the win.

Final Penguins-Blue Jackets Prediction & Pick:  Penguins -1.5 (+114)