By Allan Muir
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• With the tournament down to the previous four Stanley Cup winners, four major market teams and a bevy of stars, the NHL couldn't have gotten luckier than it did with this year's conference finals.
• This year's final four isn't just about winning a championship. It's about building a legacy.
• Looks like Boston will be without a top-four defenseman when the series gets underway.
• Yuck. All the gory details of Sidney Crosby's gruesome facial injury are contained herein.
• The series hasn't even started and the Penguins already have lost one. On Thursday, the buzz had Pittsburgh as the likely landing spot for the Russian national team's star defenseman, Anton Belov, so it was a surprise to learn that the 26-year-old, NHL-ready free agent had signed here instead.
• Damien Cox thinks the defending champs will be tough to beat now that they have a head of steam behind them...but that doesn't mean he's picking 'em to win.
• They're not finished talking about Brent Seabrook's OT heroics in Chicago.
• Dan McNeil writes that it's time for Chicago's fans to lighten up. Because, of course, everyone appreciates being told to lighten up.
• And that's only one of the obstacles that Los Angeles faces as it bids to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.
• Alain Vigneault in Dallas? Paul Maurice in Vancouver? Mark Messier in New York? TSN has the latest coaching rumors.
• Used to be that anything short of a Stanley Cup win was a disaster in Detroit. But this season's second-round loss feels like a promise of better days ahead.
• There is a decision looming about how best to use Brent Burns in San Jose. I'm thinking a look at any game tape from April or May should clear that up in a hurry.
• Here we go. Next step: Skipping the combine altogether. • Apparently, 21 points in 27 games wasn't enough to convince Montreal GM Marc Bergevin that Michael Ryder has a future in the organization. Reports indicate the Canadiens will allow the 33-year-old winger to go to market as an unrestricted free agent this summer.