BROSSARD – A commonly held preconceived notion about goalies is that they are almost an entirely different breed of hockey players.
When looking back on some of the more colorful goaltenders throughout NHL history, stories abound about superstitions and quirky routines. After all, choosing to strap on the pads to face 100 mph slap shots as a vocation takes a special kind of mindset. And yet, Mike Condon has been nothing but calm and cool since arriving with the team and taking over interim starting responsibilities at just 25 years old.
“He’s playing great. Condon’s been unbelievable since the start of training camp. He’s been unreal for us and hopefully he keeps up the good work,” praised Tomas Plekanec, who noted that the Canadiens haven’t changed their approach despite having a rookie netminder between the pipes in place of injured All-Star, Carey Price. “I don’t think we play any different. We play the same way when Pricer is in there. I don’t think we change anything.”
Far from just holding down the fort in Price’s absence, the Princeton University alum has been thriving in his new role. Six games into his NHL career, Condon currently has a commanding lead atop the NHL leaderboard with a stingy 1.60 goals-against average, and sits second behind only Henrik Lundqvist in save percentage.
Despite his impressive play out of the gates, Condon is quick to deflect credit for his 5-0-1 start back to his teammates.
“I think goals-against average is a team stat. A goalie is really only as good as his forwards and his defensemen. So it takes six guys on the ice to produce numbers like that; it’s not just a goalie stat,” clarified Condon, who plied his trade in the ECHL and AHL prior to arriving in the Canadiens’ dressing room in September. “We have a great system, a great defense corps and great forwards who are all willing to sacrifice the body. Everyone is doing their part right now so it’s fun. Guys are blocking shots and we are very crisp in our defensive zone. That makes a goalie’s job very easy.”
Scheduled to get his fifth-straight start Saturday night against the Bruins, the Needham, MA native is looking forward to helping the Habs continue their hot streak as part of his first big rivalry game in the NHL.
“I got to watch a lot of Habs-Bruins games growing up so I know they’re emotional games and really fun to watch. I was a fan of the rivalry,” noted Condon, who was present for one of the most memorable games between the two teams in recent years. “On my 21st birthday, two days after my two hip surgeries, my brother got tickets for Game 6 between the Bruins and Habs. It was the game when Nathan Horton scored the series-winning goal in overtime. I was there in a wheelchair watching the game. It didn’t work out well for the Habs that night, but it was certainly a great game to watch. It was one of the craziest games I’ve ever seen.”
Saturday’s game may prove to be even crazier for Condon given the journey he’s travelled to earn his fifth-straight start. Playing in a Bruins-Habs rivalry game seems a long way from the days he spent working his way from the NCAA to the East Coast League to the American Hockey League.
“I knew after college that I didn’t really know what to do,” admitted Condon, who majored in politics at Princeton. “I knew I wanted to play some sort of hockey, but I didn’t know what level that would be. The plan was to maybe give it a year and see what happens. But my dad invested a lot of time and effort and money, so I just wanted to give it a try and I threw everything I had at it. So I guess good things happen when you have the right attitude.”
- Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
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