What lockout? Hockey Night in Toronto

For a lack of the Maple Leafs, there were some well-attended hockey games last night in Toronto. I was out at the Ryerson/Queen’s game at the renovated Maple Leaf Gardens, while the Marlies were out in Hamilton, losing to the Bulldogs 4-1. (Here’s a remarkably undetailed recap, and here’s Steve Dangle’s “Marlies Minute”)

Tonight, there were several good NHL games on the cancelled schedule. This includes the Maple Leafs’ first meeting with the Ottawa Senators. Elsewhere on the schedule, Winnipeg and Philadelphia, who played a couple of wildly high-scoring games last season were set to go. Detroit and Chicago is a fun Central Division rivalry, and the late HNiC game was Calgary and Colorado. At least the Avalanche are fun to watch.

Tonight, we’ll have a couple of minor league games instead. The Marlies and the Bulldogs face off at Ricoh, and Sportsnet will also have a late game, for those of you into that stuff. Abbotsford, the Flames’ affiliate, host the Chicago Wolves, the affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. I can say for certain that this is the first time anything happening in Abbotsford will gain any sort of national attention.

There are some OHL games on as well, but just one in the GTA area: The London Knights visit the Barrie Colts. One of the two Leafs’ first round picks from last season is in action, as Tyler Biggs and the Oshawa Generals travel to Owen Sound. Those two games, along with two others, are on TV if you have the Rogers Action Pak.

Last night, there was a televised OHL game that featured a pair of Leafs prospects in Ryan Rupert (London) and Connor Brown (Erie). Tony Notarianni over at The Hockey Writers did a good job in tracking the advanced numbers of both prospects. Rupert had the tough task on the night:

Although zone start differential was a contributing factor to the shot discrepancy, Rupert and his linemates lacked the quickness to keep up as he was a step behind McDavid at all times.

Rupert is said to be an agitator but I rarely saw him engage physically on this night.  It could be because he had trouble keeping up with the quicker McDavid.  Rupert did have more success after the first period when he was not in a defensive role but if he wants to make it to the NHL, it will be his defensive play and his pugnacity that gets him there.

I have yet to see London yet this year, so I’m not sure whether the Knights are still going with their five-man checking unit of which Rupert and twin-brother Matt are a part. Interesting that the Ruperts didn’t seem like agitators last night, but I haven’t had a chance to catch that game just yet.

Brown had a strong game. He’s been put into a pretty important offensive role this season, playing on-and-off with 15-year old phenom Connor McDavid and providing both leadership and lineup protection.

So there’s still some hockey on TV and at the local rinks that can be found if you really need a fix. I understand it isn’t the NHL, but I find juniors and OUA to be played at a fairly entertaining level, particularly if you can get out to a rink.

Or, you can go out and watch Argo like I am.