The biggest nemesis this year is not the Anaheim Ducks, nor the Detroit Redwings. The biggest nemesis isn't the media hounding the Hawks about their recent streak. The biggest nemesis isn't the 7 games in 11 days that finally saw an end to the leagues best start in history. No,...the biggest nemesis is Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan O'Byrne. 6'5" 234 lb. behemoth shouldered Patrick Sharp into the boards and a week later he repeated that crunch to Right Winger Marian Hossa. Both have been sidelined during the past 3+ weeks and the Hawks have seen their sultry record get tarnished a little bit. The Hawks still have the best record in the NHL but now there are questions of whether Pittsburgh (14 game winning streak and the acquisition of Brandon Morrow and Jerome Iginla) or Anaheim (4 points against the Hawks...both with come from behind victories) are actually the better teams.
These are actually good questions. Pittsburgh is playing to win the cup NOW. The return of Malkin, the addition of Morrow and Iginla (both captains of their former teams) and their extremely deep lineup have to put the Penguins at the top of the list of Vegas betters.
Anaheim has taken 4 points from the Hawks both with grinding victories to pull very closely to Chicago for the Presidents cup. However, their asterisk has to be that they lost to a good but heavily banged up Detroit in back to back games this week and looked weak doing so.
The Hawks which started off the season with a magnificent PK unit has slid back significantly the past 2-3 weeks. Their PP unit has looked,...well,...it's looked plain awful. So, without Patrick Sharp or Marian Hossa in the lineup, the Hawks have looked vulnerable. Both are expected to make a comeback this next week, but both will miss tonights finale against the Anaheim Ducks.
The 3rd and 4th lines have to step it up. A few nights ago, the Hawks looked so back that the 3rd and 4th lines looked like filler lines. They weren't strong at all. Defensively, the Swedish pair of Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarrson looked so bad that they were piling on the negatives in the +/- rating.
Daniel Carcillo was benched for an entire week and Jamal Mayers looks like a ghost.
As the Hawks get ready to finish out the last 16 games of the regular season and are presently 14 points ahead of Detroit (with two games to spare), this allows the Hawks to heal their wounds.
So, let's be thankful that the Hawks have this tremendous lead,...and let's be thankful the Hawks do not have to face Ryan O'Byrne anytime soon.