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Ducks re-evaluating after stinging end to season

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- It's much too early for Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray to fully dissect what went wrong with his team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, specifically a Game 7 that is already being talked about as the worst loss in franchise history.

Anaheim caved under the pressure and succumbed to the rival Los Angeles Kings 6-2 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round series in a building in which it had started the season 20-0-2. Murray talked Monday on the team's exit meetings day, and the game still haunted him.

"When you sit and watch, after the all years in this business, you worry the night before that your team may be too nervous, too apprehensive," Murray said. "There's all sorts of things that go through your mind, and they're your worst nightmare. But it's something you have to take and move on from. You've got to learn from that. We're at that point where we can't allow this to happen. We've got to move forward."

Stating the team wasn't as close to winning a Stanley Cup as it had thought, Ducks GM Bob Murray said Monday he's taking things "one piece at a time" in deciding what offseason changes to make. (Photo: Debora Robinson/NHLI)

Murray took note of all the positives for Anaheim this season, a record 54 wins and 116 regular-season points, before he said, "Still, a very sour taste in my mouth at the moment."

Murray, whose contract was extended through 2020 on Monday, said he will take the next few weeks to closely look at what is preventing Anaheim from a truly deep run in the playoffs. The Ducks have won two series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007. Asked how close they are to being a Cup contender, Murray took a figurative step back.

"If you would have asked me that a week-and-a-half ago, I would have said close," Murray said. "But now you have to be realistic and say, 'Oh, boy.' You don't want to be too emotional at this time.

"We're evaluating everything and we're going to take this one piece at a time, because we're not as close as everybody thought we were."

Murray said he was most concerned by Anaheim's inconsistent power play that went 0-for-8 in Games 6 and 7 of the second round, and that the Ducks had to come from behind 26 times to win in the regular season because of spotty play in their own end.

Murray said he would like to improve the center position. Anaheim was close to getting Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks at the NHL Trade Deadline, but Murray didn't want to offer any current player on his roster to get Kesler.

Anaheim is typically quite active at the NHL Draft, and speaking generally, Murray said of this draft, "I don't think … I'll offer as much for certain pieces as I did at the trade deadline. I definitely tried very hard to add something and it didn't work, and we offered a lot. I don't know if I'll go that far."

The Ducks' goaltending seems firm with rookies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, but Murray didn't discount adding veteran experience.

"Again, there's evaluation there," Murray said. "I like our two young goaltenders a lot, I'll tell you that. I'm very pleased with the progress they both made this year. They both feel they can get better, and so do I. They're two really good kids."

The Ducks revealed their injuries Monday, the most serious of which was a torn abdominal muscle that forced left wing Matt Beleskey out of the second-round series. Beleskey, who was reunited with captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the top line, might need surgery.

Andersen sprained the MCL in his right knee. He was close to returning, had the Ducks advanced. Also, center Mathieu Perreault played through a groin injury and Getzlaf missed Game 4 of the first-round series against the Dallas Stars with a shoulder strain.

Andersen and Gibson took turns replacing Jonas Hiller, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent.

"There's probably a real good chance that was my last game for the Ducks," Hiller said. "Thinking about it kind of makes me feel sad because I had a few great years here. It always feels weird when something like that comes to an end. You're always kind of hoping, but at the same time, sometimes you kind of have to face reality. I'm kind of open-minded. I think at same time, I feel like I was fortunate to be with an organization, the Ducks, for seven years. They helped me a lot, being where I'm at right now."

Jonas Hiller
Goalie - ANA
GAA: 2.19 | SVP: 0.906
Hiller started the season extraordinary and tied the second-best winning streak in NHL history with 14 consecutive victories. He said there were "definitely talks" about re-signing with Anaheim "but for some reason, there always seem to be something that they couldn't quite sign me yet. They were just dragging it out."

Hiller's game dropped off from the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series outdoor game before Andersen and Gibson usurped him.

"I think we maybe should have given him some time out after the Olympics," Murray said. "He'd come back and play a good game or two, and then I'd have to go back and look at. He was on a high, and I think we should have … given him some time off. Playing for Switzerland in the Olympics, he carries the ball there. We should have been smarter, and I'll take some responsibility for that."

Anaheim will have ample salary cap space this summer. Teemu Selanne is expected to retire. Veteran center Saku Koivu, 39, reiterated Monday that he will take the coming weeks to decide his future.

Perreault, right wing Jakob Silfverberg, left wing Devante Smith-Pelly and defenseman Sami Vatanen will be restricted free agents. Forward Daniel Winnik and defenseman Stephane Robidas will be unrestricted free agents, and Murray indicated that Robidas, 37, likes being in Anaheim.

Defenseman Sheldon Souray has a career-threatening wrist injury and there is serious doubt that he will return. Souray, who turns 38 in July, tore a ligament in his right wrist last July and it is difficult for him to grip a stick. He is expected to decide his future this summer after he missed all of this season.

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau had some telling comments after Game 7 that the Kings were skating by the Ducks like they were standing still and that it was like "men against boys" in the opening minutes. Winnik said he thought they might have relied on home-ice advantage too much in the series.

It's one of the many aspects Murray will evaluate, and he seemed to sum up everything when asked about how hard it is to win in the Western Conference and building toward that next step, like the Kings have done.

"We have to want it more," Murray said. "We have to do whatever it takes to get to the next series, to the next series, to the next series. It's a great challenge for us."

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