The Blues are out of town for a five-game road trip, and they could return to St. Louis as a different team. Their playoff hopes could be alive, if not well. Or a dead-end journey could all but seal their demise. This is a middle-pack team but the stakes are high.

The Blues are traveling east, with games at Philadelphia, the NY Islanders, New Jersey, the NY Rangers and Boston. By the time their trek ends, the Blues could definitely be taking a sharp turn south … at least in the Western Conference wild-card standings.

+ Going into Monday night’s game at Philadelphia, the Blues have a 5.7 percent chance to clutch and grab a playoff spot. That’s according to MoneyPuck. But if the Blues lose to the Flyers in regulation, their playoff probability drops to 3.8 percent.

+ The Blue begin the roadie with a seven-point deficit in the wild-card race. Los Angeles and Nashville each have 72 points, with the Blues and Calgary both lodged at 65. Minnesota (64) and Seattle (63) are within breathing distance.

+ Adding to the difficulty: teams the Blues are trying to catch or hold off are running hot right now. LA is 9-4 in the last 13 games. Nashville has won eight straight. Calgary has rolled to five consecutive wins. Minnesota has cooled (1-3 in the last four) after a feisty 8-2-1 stretch. And Seattle has rebounded from a slump to go 5-2-1 in its last eight.

+ The Blues recovered nicely from an 0-2-1 downturn to defeat Minnesota 3-1 on Saturday at Enterprise Center, but they can’t afford to keep slipping. By the time the east-coast haul concludes, the Blues will have only 17 regular-season games left on the schedule, with 11 on home ice.

So there’s a chance? Mathematically, yes. But let’s talk after next Monday’s game at Boston that will close out a stretch of playing eight of nine games away from St. Louis. The Blues leveled off to a 5-6-1 mark in their last 12 since through a five-game win streak. If the Blues mosey their way through more up-and-down phases of inconsistency, then forget about the postseason. It’ll almost be time for the offseason.

As Jake Neighbours stressed to the Blues’ media after Saturday’s important victory: “Every point from here on out is extremely important if you want to get into the playoffs, especially how tight the race is right now.”

Adding to the drama is Friday’s NHL trade deadline at 2 p.m. St. Louis time. A flurry of moves is expected – as always in the frenetic NHL – but it would likely be a quiet milepost for the Blues unless GM Doug Armstrong receives a bountiful, irresistible offer for forward Pavel Buchnevich.

The high-value asset had produced 80 goals and 111 assists in 194 games with St. Louis. Approaching his 29th birthday, Buchnevich has a season remaining on his contract, and that only adds to his appeal for potential trade partners. Buchnevich gets bonus points for being an edgy, hard-wired competitor that’s effective on special teams. Among 245 NHL forwards that have played at least 2,500 minutes over the last three seasons, Buchnevich ranks 36th with a rate of 3.09 points per 60 minutes.

“This feels like a situation where Armstrong doesn’t need to move off a high price, and if no one offers one, he can decide whether he wants to revisit it this summer,” wrote Pierre LeBrun at The Athletic. “But I don’t think Armstrong thinks he needs to reduce the price one bit this week for a very productive player who he’s just as happy to keep.”

If Armstrong holds out for an exorbitant exchange rate for making a Buchnevich deal, interested parties may conclude it makes more sense to pursue a walk-year rental forward at a lower price rather than go all-in to accommodate the Blues.

If Armstrong lacks confidence in the team’s chance to get the star player signed to a contract extension, no problem. The Blues could place Buchnevich on the trade market this summer. Friday’s trade deadline is just one checkpoint for the Blues-Booch. For teams interested in having a full season of Buchnevich, there could be another opportunity to get something done before he enters the final season of his Blues contract. This is the maximum time for trading him; the team that lands him can have Buchnevich in place for two postseason runs. If the Blues decide to entertain offers this coming summer, a team that acquires Buchnevich would have him for one postseason shot.

Perhaps Armstrong can offload a regrettable defenseman – or, more to the point, a defenseman’s lamentable contract. But that’s probably a preposterous Fantasy Island scenario. (Remember that show, boomers?)

The Blues are in this jam because of a payroll predicament caused by the frequent overspending on average/mediocre players that now clog up the roster. The Blues have a lot to untangle, and one trade won’t do it.

If the Blues fail to make the playoffs, it would be the second exclusion in a row. Since the start of the 2022-2023 season St. Louis ranks 23rd in the NHL with a points-earned percentage of .514. This soft rebuild is hard work.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

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For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in this hockey column were sources from Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick and MoneyPuck.