Do Blues really have a shot at making the playoffs?

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Players are almost always going to be overly optimistic about their teams’ chances of digging out of a hole and earning a playoff spot, but when everyone gets together for All-Star game weekend, you’re likely to see even more glass-half-full talk.

So, yes, you can take Ryan O'Reilly‘s positive St. Louis Blues vibes with a grain of salt.

“We haven’t been perfect, but we are starting to get back into this fight and I am confident that we are going to play in the playoffs because of the way we work,” O’Reilly said on Thursday, via NHL.com’s Shawn P. Roarke.

Take a look at the crowded Western Conference bubble races and you can see some reasons for optimism, but also the considerable hurdles the Blues must clear.

That’s quite the motley group of contestants, right?

So, do the Blues really have a chance? Let’s consider some of the factors involved.

  • The projection models give them mixed results.

Interestingly, the Blues have better than 50-percent odds at Money Puck (52.93-percent) and Corsica (57.5), but are at just 24 percent according to projections from Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic (sub required). One would guess that some of the models are especially kind to the Blues for being a top-10 possession team in many of the major measures like Corsi For and Fenwick For, as you can see at Natural Stat Trick.

  • In a league (and wild-card races) with this much parity, the Blues split of remaining home/away games provides some concern.

The Blues have played in 27 home games already, the most of any NHL team, which leaves them with 14 remaining. Meanwhile, they’ve played on the road 22 times, so they’ll play 19 of their final 33 games on the road. So far in 2018-19, they’ve actually been more effective on the road (10-9-3) than at home (12-13-2), so maybe that won’t be such a bad thing?

(I’d still generally want five more home games than five on the road, though.)

Being at 49 games played means that they either have a game or two in hand on their rivals, or the same number of contests remaining, so that diffuses some of that home/road pessimism.

  • How will their goaltending shake out for the rest of this season?

Jordan Binnington has been fantastic so far, posting a .924 save percentage in nine games, but his track record is sparse. He had only played in one NHL game before this season. If it all goes back to Jake Allen, will he be able to break recent trends and come through for the Blues?

One area of comfort is that, while Binnington’s doesn’t have much of an NHL resume, he’s performed nicely in the AHL over the past few years. Obviously, you’ll face a different caliber of shooters at the highest level, but success in the AHL and ECHL sure beat getting lit up or just being average in those leagues.

  • There are some reasons to believe that the Blues will continue to play better than they were performing when Mike Yeo got fired.

The acquisition of ROR was exciting because it felt like it could bring the Blues to another level because they already had some nice talent. Unfortunately, that talent hasn’t always come through for St. Louis – because of injuries, inconsistent play, or both – leaving ROR to be one of the few bright spots during the darkest moments.

But, again, there’s some intriguing talent that at least allows the Blues to theoretically have more than just a strong first line.

Vladimir Tarasenko‘s getting back on track, and it seems like Jaden Schwartz might be healthy, rounding out the top line (or at least the high-end portion) of the team with ROR. David Perron and Brayden Schenn give some supporting cast pop, while things may also get better for Patrick Maroon and Alex Steen. Combine some nice assets at forward with some decent defensemen (particularly Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo), and this team becomes increasingly formidable on paper.

  • Sell or stand pat?

In recent seasons, Blues GM Doug Armstrong has elected to punt during fork-in-the-road trade deadline moments. He gained assets for Kevin Shattenkirk, and did the same with Paul Stastny.

Armstrong will need to make similar, tough calls this time around. Pietrangelo’s been a frequent trade rumor magnet, and you’d think that contenders would give up considerable assets to land such a strong right-handed defenseman, particularly since he’s cost-controlled through 2019-20 at a $6.5 million cap hit. Schenn’s deal also extends through next season ($5.125M) so a would-be buyer would be getting a “rental” for two potential playoff runs.

Of course, the flip side is that Armstrong could survey his roster and determine that the smarter move is to go for it in both 2018-19, and maybe especially next season.

***

The West’s bubble races are sort of an Island of Misfit Toys. The Oilers are in crisis, the Coyotes are unpredictable, the Ducks are struggling, the Avs are fading, and the Stars are getting buried by their own management. For all we know, the Blues may simply end up standing simply by making fewer mistakes. They could also plummet to the depths of the West cellar. It’s tough to tell, and it’s not surprising that their projections are all over the place.

But, yeah, at least O’Reilly isn’t totally out of sync with reality when he says that the Blues have a shot at making the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Predators-Avalanche postponed due to water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friday’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche has been postponed because of a water main break that has soaked the downtown arena.

The NHL said the water main break has “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store.

The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

A makeup date for the  game will be announced later.

Also, a decision on whether to postpone the Predators’ home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be made later.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue in Nashville for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.

Carrier, Pietrangelo rally Golden Knights past Canucks 5-4

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Pietrangelo scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and had two assists as the Vegas Golden Knights rallied past the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Monday night.

William Carrier scored twice and Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights (15-4-1), who overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third. Reilly Smith also scored, while Jack Eichel and Alec Martinez each had two assists.

Logan Thompson made 25 saves for Vegas, which had a go-ahead goal wiped out in the third but still kept pushing.

“I don’t think that’s really how we drew it up,” Pietrangelo said. “A lot of emotions. Obviously we score and then it gets taken back. But I’ll tell you what, it’s not easy to win on the road and you’ve got to give credit to our group – we were resilient no matter what happened.”

Vancouver (6-10-3) got a goal and an assist from Andrei Kuzmenko. Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn and Elias Pettersson also scored, and Quinn Hughes had two assists.

Thatcher Demko stopped 33 shots for the Canucks, who gave up a multi-goal lead in a loss for the seventh time this season.

“Inexcusable,” defenseman Luke Schenn said.

“That’s nothing to do with systems or what the coaches are telling us. That comes down to battle and compete and, we’re getting outmuscled and outbattled in front of the net and in the blue paint,” he added. “Everyone just needs to be better in front of (Demko) there and that’s where games are won and lost.”

Vegas appeared to take the lead midway through the third period, but the goal was disallowed because of a bizarre bounce.

A clearing attempt by the Canucks hit the lens of a camera sticking through one of the media holes in the glass, knocking a piece of it onto the ice. Play continued at that end and Stone put the puck in the net. But after a video review, the goal was overturned and an official said the whistle should have been blown to stop play.

About four minutes later, Pietrangelo did give the Golden Knights a 5-4 advantage when he collected a puck from Stone and sent a backhand past Demko from the low slot at 14:14.

Vancouver scored three straight goals early in the third to go up 4-2 before Vegas roared back.

“We let them score one, kind of changed the momentum quick and then they scored another one. So I don’t know,” Pettersson said. “We just can’t let that happen. It’s been happening way too many times this season.”

Carrier made it 4-3 with his second of the night at 6:54, sending in a rebound from the top of the crease for his sixth of the season.

“Once they scored one it was like, `Uh oh, here we go again.’ And we’re back on our heels and they came at us, and then they got three,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Smith shoveled a puck into the Vancouver net at 8:57 to tie it.

“We just win some pucks below their goal line and get it to the front of the net and force them to defend an area they haven’t done as good a job as they’d probably like this year there,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We didn’t do a very good job to start a third there, and then it snowballs a little bit. You have a little life and you get a couple more pucks to the net and a second chance.”

ON A ROLL

Horvat drew the Canucks even 1:47 into the third with a wrist shot from the hash marks. Vancouver’s captain has 15 goals, second-most in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (16). … Brock Boeser‘s assist on the first goal of the game extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, six assists).

MARKING MILESTONES

Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault played his 500th regular-season NHL game. Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old center suited up for Columbus, Tampa Bay and Florida before Vegas selected him in the 2017 expansion draft. … Vancouver defenseman Ethan Bear made his 200th regular-season appearance.

UP NEXT

Golden Knights: Host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.

Canucks: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday at Colorado.