1. The biggest pre-playoffs mistake any fan can make is to pick a favorite foe for the opening round.
2. My theory is that a club should want to play its toughest opponent because that will bring out the best in any franchise.
3. You want a challenge; pick the Vezina Trophy winner. Best goalie in the league? It can’t be Braden Holtby because he has to prove he can lift the Capitals to – at least – the third round.
4. Ray Shero has only begun to reshape the Devils. Who returns when it comes to evaluating the likes of Jordan Tootoo, Stephen Gionta, Tuomo Ruutu, Jon Merrill and David Warsofsky? Figure half may be gone.
5. Say what you will about the shootout — alias “skills competition” — but the three-on-three overtime is here to stay. Anyone who loves wide-open hockey the way I do is thumbs-up over the idea originally advanced by Jim Devellano and Jim Holland of the Red Wings high command.
6. Unless the Lightning go far in the playoffs — I say they will not — figure goalie Ben Bishop to be traded. Backup Andrei Vasilevski is ready for the No. 1 role.
7. Talk about opportunity knocking. Steve Bernier and Eric Boulton were Islanders onlookers for most of the season. Considering all the injuries his club has suffered,Jack Capuano may find Steve and Eric useful in the postseason.
8. Patrik Elias tells me he’s not sure whether he wants to return next season. My uneducated guess is that he’ll pack in his illustrious career.
9. Whether Elias returns for another season or not is yet to be known, but the Devils all-time scoring leader says, even though he still has the goods, he does not want to burden his team next season with injury worries.
10. Who’s the most overrated-name coach in the NHL? Colorado’s Patrick Roy, hands-down winner. Any doubts; check the standings.
11. Here’s a curious twist: The Florida media is touting the Panthers as “Canada’s team” in the playoffs because 60% of the Cats’ line-up is Canadian.
12. Oh, yeah, the other reason is that for the first time since 1970, every single team from North of the Border is disqualified from postseason competition.
13. Because the seven Canadian teams are gonzo, you have to figure that out of that group at least three coaches will go bye-bye. Maybe more, plus at least one from the State-side group.
14. Possibly the most obvious exits will include Dave Cameron in Ottawa, Michel Therrien of the Habs and Paul Maurice in Winnipeg.
15. You hear plenty about Drew Doughty as a top choice for the Norris Trophy, but Kris Letang has been coming on strong and a good reason for the Penguins’ early spring surge.
16. There are some great candidates for Rookie of the Year. While Artem Panarin, Shayne Gostisbehere and Dylan Larkin are all on playoff teams, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are not, and that should be a factor against the Oiler and Sabre.
17. Dumb and Dumber Department: Since everybody and his Uncle Dudley knows that the playoffs are the most important part of the season, annual awards should include the postseason performance as much as the regular sked. Yes?
18. New Jersey Devils fans will sorely miss The Record writings of Tom Gulitti, who has left the Garden State for Washington, where he’ll be regional correspondent for NHL.com. For more than a decade, Tom was one of the league’s most dedicated and respected journalists.
19. One of Tom’s favorite players to interview was Jaromir Jagr, who he called, “an interesting man.”
20. Derek Stepan on two reasons why the Rangers should be optimistic heading into the real season: “Chris (Kreider) and I both have found our grooves together.”
21. William Shakespeare once wrote,”Sweet are the uses of adversity.” That could be Brady Skjei‘s theme for the Blueshirts when defense needs plugging.
22. Talk about big-time coaching challenges, how about the Lightning’s Jon Cooper losing his crack shooter, Steven Stamkos, and his ace defenseman, Anton Stralman, and the playoffs haven’t even started yet.
23. Among the forgotten amazing aspects of Sidney Crosby’s superior season is the fact that he has survived — and thrived — despite a serious concussion issue that almost cost him a career.
24. Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec is sure to be available this Summer. While he’s a year from UFA status, there’s a solid side to him.
25. Player’s Player awards as voted by team members rank among the most underrated prizes in hockey. That’s why I’m so impressed with Jesper Fast being the Rangers choice for 2015-16.
26. I don’t know about you but the rash — is it epidemic? — of injuries league-wide disturbs me more than ever this spring.
27. If there’s one Ranger I’d hate to lose in the off-season — or in-season for that matter — it’s Kevin Klein.
28. The Hockey News offers an interesting note: “Goalie Frederik Andersen is the favorite to start in goal for the NHL’s expansion team in Las Vegas.” To which The Maven says, good start.
29. There never — ever — was a better expansion pick goalie than Philadelphia’s Bernie Parent, who went on to a Hall of Fame career and two Cups.
30. The Canadiens rebuild is likely to cost Connecticut’s Max Pacioretty the club’s captaincy if he’s not traded over the summer. Marc Crawford is a good bet to get the Habs coaching job if Michel Therrien gets the hook.
31. From my good friend Michael Grover on the Habs leadership problems: “For Marc Bergevin, he needs to realize that Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec aren’t suited as leaders and it wouldn’t work to just strip their captaincy and alternate captaincy, so they have to be traded.”
32. Hall of Famer Igor Larionov had this to say on Connor McDavid: “High-speed and skill, and his decision-making is always right. Always a threat to score a goal or make a play. It’s a gift and, to me, there is nobody close to him in today’s game. He kind of reminds me of Mark Messier.”
33. The Devils’ Comeback Player of the Year is easily Travis Zajac, who, following a period of self reflection last summer, was an ace two-way catalyst for the Garden State skaters this season.
34. Andrew Cogliano, 28, gets the Iron Man Award for playing in more than 700 consecutive games. Only Doug Jarvis (964), Garry Unger (914), Steve Larmer (884) and Jay Bouwmeester (737) have longer iron man streaks.
35. Word to the wise: Don’t pick and choose who you want to play in the playoffs. Focus on winning games and let the cards fall where they may.
36. The Avs will miss the postseason for the second straight year. Coach Roy is putting the onus on the team’s core to “want more” and “show more leadership.” This includes Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan Mackinnon,
37. Kyle (Hometown Boy) Palmieri has been worth more than two draft picks for the Devils. Arguably the best acquisition to date by Shero, Palmieri ranks fourth in the NHL in goals scored by percentage for his club.
38. LETTERS: This from Anthony Di Paolo of Dumont, NJ: “Sarnia Sting phenom Pavel Zacha scored 13 points in a seven-game thriller against the SSM Greyhounds. If he plays well upon his recent call-up to Albany, expect him to make the jump to the NHL next season.”
39. Rich Chere covered the Devils for the Newark Star-Ledger from the club’s first season. He did his job as well as any hockey journalist on the continent. Chere has just retired and his fine prose will be missed. Our best wishes to Pal Rich in retirement. @Ledger_NJDevils
40. Want a Cup-winner. I’m reminded by my Toronto Sun buddy Steve Simmons that the Harry Sinden theory is to go with the hottest team down the stretch. Does that mean Pittsburgh? Hmmm.