Blue Jackets vs. Penguins prediction: Pittsburgh has backs against the wall

For the first time since the 2005-06 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins are in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

The Penguins are in a Wild Card spot on Tuesday morning, but the gap is quite thin between them and a chasing pack that features four teams (Ottawa, Buffalo, Washington, and Florida) all within three points of Pittsburgh, who in turn trail the Islanders by one point for the first Wild Card. 

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets odds

Odds provided by BetMGM

Puckline: CBJ: +1.5 (+110) vs. PIT -1.5 (-135)

Moneyline: CBJ (+240) vs. PIT (-300)

Total: Over 6.5 (-120) vs. Under 6.5 (+100)

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets prediction

(7 p.m. ET., ESPN+)

With the race so tight, every game is a must-win for the Penguins, but dropping points against a poor team like Columbus is basically not an option.

Pittsburgh’s schedule really heats up after Tuesday, so the Penguins need to put these two points in their pocket.

But just because Pittsburgh needs it more and is a big favorite doesn’t mean they will just walk over the Blue Jackets and into Thursday night’s tilt with the Islanders.

First of all, the Penguins haven’t done enough to earn that kind of trust.

Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Getty Images

Pittsburgh has been inconsistent all season and is just 5-5 in its last 10 contests, though the Pens did quiet some of the noise with a four-game winning streak sprinkled in there.

But just because the Pens were able to rattle off a few wins in a row doesn’t mean their problems are in the rear-view mirror.

Pittsburgh is generating scoring chances at a healthy clip of late, but the defense continues to be a worry.

Pittsburgh is allowing 3.1 expected goals and 14.1 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 over its last 10 games, which puts them in the bottom-10 in the NHL in both metrics.

A star cast of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Jake Guentzel means the Penguins can outscore their defensive misgivings here and there, but when you’re in a playoff chase like this, there’s no room for error.

A bad day at the office for Pittsburgh’s stars likely spells trouble for the Penguins, no matter the opponent.

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Columbus Blue Jackets Defenceman Erik Gudbranson
Columbus Blue Jackets Defenceman Erik Gudbranson
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And as bad as the Blue Jackets have been this season, they’ve been a scrappy bunch of late.

Columbus is 5-4-2 in its last 11 contests and has wins over Edmonton, Buffalo, Toronto, Dallas and Winnipeg in that span.

The Jackets do stroll into Pittsburgh on a two-game losing streak, but that’s par for the course for a team that has spent a lot of this season at, or near, dead-last in the entire league.

A lot would have to go right for Columbus to pull the upset on the road in this spot, but the Penguins tend to leave the door open enough that these odds are enticing.

Additionally, it’s unlikely that many people will be rushing to the window to bet the Jackets, so there’s a decent chance this number gets even bigger as we get closer to puck drop on Tuesday night.

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets pick

Blue Jackets +240 (BetMGM)

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