OTTAWA – Mike Condon’s NHL career got off to a strong start on Sunday night.
In his first-ever regular season outing between the pipes, the 25-year-old made 20 saves en route to leading the Canadiens to a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre, which also just happened to be their third straight victory.
Condon, who earned the backup job in Montreal out of training camp, couldn’t have been happier with the way things played out in his NHL debut, which, interestingly enough, pitted him against fellow NHL newcomer, Matthew O’Connor, who was also plying his trade in the big leagues for the very first time.
“It was exciting. I thought the guys played an awesome game. I think we only had 12 shots against going into the third period, and only maybe five or six scoring chances against [by that time]. My workload was very light,” offered Condon, who conceded the lone Senators’ goal – a short-handed marker – to forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau during the second frame on Sunday night. “I had a lot of energy going into the game. After that first shot comes in, though, all the interior monologue just quiets down and your training takes over. After the first shot, I was having some fun.”
That certainly was evident to defenseman P.K. Subban, who was impressed by the way Condon went about his business in a game in which the Canadiens dominated head coach Dave Cameron’s contingent by a 34-21 margin in the all-important shot department.
“What surprised me was his composure. He was just very, very composed in there. He wasn’t scrambling. He just was set. He trusted his structure as a goaltender. He wasn’t swimming out there. When he had to get out of his structure to make a big save, he did it,” praised Subban, who picked up his fourth assist of the season in the win. “They’ve got some pretty sharp players over there. It’s a good thing he was sharp.”
The Norris Trophy winning rearguard, who logged a team-leading 24:19 of ice time in front of Condon, says the team, as a whole, had total confidence in the Needham, MA native’s abilities, especially after seeing him turn in strong showings in the preseason in recent weeks. With those performances in mind, Therrien’s troops knew they didn’t have to alter their game plan in any way, shape or form with a far-less-experienced netminder in goal than Carey Price.
“A lot of times when the backup goes in there, you see a sense of changing things up. But, we didn’t change anything. I felt that guys felt confident with him in there. He established early that he was ready,” explained Subban, whose squad benefitted from Tomas Plekanec lighting the lamp twice in the first period which got the Canadiens off to the start they needed. “Listen, I’ve got to give him credit. He came in there and he did exactly what he had to do. We get that from Carey every night. What Carey brings, we got that from him.”
The Canadiens’ bench boss shared similar thoughts after watching Condon deliver the type of effort he’ll be called upon to bring every time he gets the nod – as infrequently as that might be with the reigning Vezina Trophy, Hart Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner always at the top of his game.
“He made key saves at the right times. That’s a direct result of all the work he put in at training camp. Picking up that first win is something special,” offered Therrien, who will see his club wrap up its current three-game road swing on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. “He’s a guy who deserves to be in the NHL. You need a backup who can deliver solid performances. That’s what he did. He’s calm, but he’s a fighter. You could see that at the end of the game [when the Senators were threatening].”
That type of talent – and a willingness to embrace the inevitable pressure that comes with occupying the backup role in Montreal – is what will undoubtedly enable Condon to collect even more wins down the road.
“The more shots you get, the more comfortable you are in goal. There could also be more scoring chances too, so you’ve just got to take what comes to you,” concluded Condon, a Princeton University grad. “I was very fortunate for the guys’ effort against the Sens.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Game Highlights: Montreal @ Ottawa
Postgame : October 11, 2015
The Numbers Game: October 11, 2015
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