VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There are so many of the Vancouver Canucks for Blackhawks fans to dislike - Willie Mitchell, Kevin Bieksa, Rick Rypien, the hair pulling Alex Burrows, even goalie Roberto Luongo.
But Ryan Kesler might now be at the top of their list.
Kesler called out Blackhawks winger Andrew Ladd after Saturday's 5-1 win by the Canucks at GM Place during which Ladd got the best of Kesler in a first period fight.
Kesler was looking for revenge for what he said was a hit from behind from Ladd in last spring's playoffs and wound up taking a punch to the face that opened a cut under his eye. Instead of trading punches with Ladd, Kesler's only response was to wrestle Ladd to the ice.
"He's a coward, he'll always be a coward," Kesler told reporters after the game. "At least he was man enough to hit me when I was looking this time."
We'll have to wait until practice on Monday to get Ladd's response since the Hawks have a day off on Sunday.
Circle March 5 on the schedule. That's when the Hawks and Canucks meet for the final time during the regular season at the United Center. That also will be Mitchell's first game back in Chicago since he knocked out Jonathan Toews with a head shot in October.
Vancouver is turning into the best rivalry the Hawks have, even better than Detroit because of its potential for nastiness.
Old-time hockey. I miss it.
- It was just bad night all around for the Hawks on Saturday. The Canucks were pumped for the game while the Hawks didn't come to play with their usual energy.
Starting goalie Antti Niemi was pulled after the first period after the Hawks fell behind 3-0. He allowed 3 goals in 12 shots before being replaced by Cristobal Huet, but it wasn't entirely his fault.
"I wasn't blaming the goaltending at all tonight," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Down 3-0 you try to change the momentum with a lot of hockey left. It didn't work."
Niemi admitted he did have trouble finding some pucks in scrambles.
"A lot of (tough) bounces," Niemi said.
The first period was a disaster after the Hawks failed on a power play that started 19 seconds into the game.
Mikael Samuelsson made it 1-0 at 7:19 when nobody bothered to pick him up in the slot. A Brent Seabrook turnover led to Henrik Sedin's goal at 10:21, then an unchecked Steve Bernier scored late at 18:22 on a rebound.
It was the first time Niemi made back-to-back starts and was the third time in 52 games Quenneville pulled his starting goaltender. He did it twice previously with Huet.
The Hawks finished 0-for-4 on the power play. They outshot the Canucks 44-28, but this is a stats crew here that likes to jack up the shot totals for their boy Luongo.