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Baggie Day Buzz: Blackhawks feeling better about future

Ducks GM wants culture change; Rangers Kreider, Skjei to play for U.S. at World Championship

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For 15 NHL teams, there will be no Stanley Cup Playoffs. Instead, there will be players packing up their gear, reflecting on the season and looking toward the future, as well as front-office members analyzing what went wrong.

Baggie Day Buzz is your one-stop shop for the latest news and analysis from the teams not going to the playoffs.

Here is the news from Sunday:

 

Blackhawks upbeat despite missing playoffs

The Chicago Blackhawks are disappointed about missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons. But they're feeling better about their future than they did a year ago.

"I think we have a clear path forward of how we're going to be better next year," general manager Stan Bowman said Sunday. "It took some time, but when you look at the last 50 games, we were playing at about a 100-point pace. I think for the last 50 games we were playing like a team that could contend for the division title, but we had a lot of ground to make up. The goal now is to build on that."

The Blackhawks (36-34-12) went 27-16-7 in their final 50 games of the season, showing progress under coach Jeremy Colliton, who took over after Joel Quenneville was fired on Nov. 6. Offense wasn't Chicago's problem; the Blackhawks finished eighth in the NHL with 267 goals scored. But they allowed 291 goals, second-most in the NHL behind the Ottawa Senators, who gave up 301. The Blackhawks had the NHL's worst penalty kill at 72.7 percent.

"We showed that we can be a dynamic offensive team and we can put the puck in the net and play a quick-strike transition style. If we get better defensively, that's only going to get better," Colliton said. "We'll only be more dangerous with the puck and again, we made progress, and that's good. We can just continue on and we'll be a much harder team to play against, I think."

Center Jonathan Toews, Chicago's captain, said having their first training camp with Colliton will help.

"We played some really good hockey down the stretch," Toews said. "To pick up where we left off, to have that excitement, that energy, to come into the season with a long offseason like we have right now, guys will be physically and mentally prepared, and there's no guesswork from there. I don't think a whole lot's going to change, so all of that lines itself up to have a great start to the year. We've all got to be ready to come in with that mentality."

Bowman said the Blackhawks will be more aggressive this summer, given their salary cap flexibility. There will be some new faces next season, but since the Blackhawks feel they're going in the right direction, they won't change too much.

"There will be some moving parts, but I wouldn't expect sweeping changes," Bowman said. "I think we've got a lot of good things here and I think we showed that. Like I said, our last 50 games we played some really good hockey. We're trying to build on that, not really change it dramatically."

Tracey Myers, NHL.com staff writer

 

Ducks GM says culture needs to change

Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who coached the team for the final 26 games of the season, said a culture of losing took over his players at points during the season and needs to change.

"Some nights, I'd call it, "Putting their big toe in the water," and if they didn't like what they felt, they're not going to compete," Murray said Sunday, two days after the Ducks (35-37-10) finished the season 10 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. "That was never here before."

When Murray fired Randy Carlyle on Feb. 10 and took over as coach, he said he wanted to see how the players carried themselves between periods, how they prepared for practices and how they communicated during games.

"From what I was trying to accomplish, I thought that was very successful," Murray said. "Alleviating some of the worries I had and confirming some other issues we definitely have."

Anaheim had two seven-game losing streaks and a team-record 12-game losing streak before Murray took over. The Ducks were 14-11-1 after the coaching change.

"When you're in the midst of it, and you know that points are slipping away every night, and you don't have a lot of confidence as a team, it's really hard to fix that," defenseman Cam Fowler said. "Mentally and physically, we were just exhausted because we were trying too hard to correct it and things kept getting worse and worse, and you just felt like you were in quicksand."

The Ducks won three of their first four games under Murray to pull within three points of the second wild card from the West with 22 games left, but then lost five in a row, scoring five goals in that span.

"That's what I look at, those five games in a row," Murray said. "Why'd we lose? ... It should have been a team that competes for the playoffs, for sure."

Dan Arritt, NHL.com correspondent

 

Lindholm to miss World Championship

Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm said he won't play sit for Sweden at the 2019 IIHF World Championship because of "hip issues" that have affected him since missing six games from Nov. 18-28.

The tournament will be held in Slovakia from May 10-26.

"I'm going to go take a closer look at that," said Lindholm, who helped Sweden win a second straight gold medal last year. "Hopefully it's not too bad to fix."

Dan Arritt, NHL.com correspondent

 

Two Rangers to play for U.S. at World Championship

New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider and defenseman Brady Skjei said they will play for the United States at the Worlds.

Kreider, who tied his NHL career high with 28 goals this season, had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 games to help the United States win the bronze medal at the World Championship last year.

Skjei, who had 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 78 games this season, had one point, an assist, in three games at the 2017 World Championship after scoring one goal in 10 games in the 2016 tournament.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and center Mika Zibanejad each said he could play for Sweden, but neither has agreed to do so as of yet.

Rookie forward Filip Chytil (Czech Republic) and rookie goalie Alexandar Georgiev (Russia) each said he was hoping to get the chance to play in the tournament.

"It's an opportunity to represent your country, it's an opportunity to win and those things are valuable," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "I want all our guys to go, as many as possible unless there [are] physical issues, and go have success, go feel winning."

Dan Rosen, NHL.com senior writer

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