Coach saving goalie call for game day
It might not come until Saturday, but Sens backup goalie will get his chance
Will it be Craig Anderson or Mike Condon Friday night against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome?
Given Anderson posted a 37-save shutout in a 2-0 win in Edmonton on Oct. 30 last season — only days after learning his wife Nicholle had been diagnosed with a rare form of throat cancer — it might make sense for the Ottawa Senators’ top goalie to start against the Oilers at Rogers Place on Saturday night. Not so fast with that theory. The only certainty is Condon will start one of the club’s next two games. Nobody’s sure which one it will be yet.
As the Senators left the ice Thursday following a late afternoon skate at the Stampede Corral — just across the street from the Saddledome — coach Guy Boucher told reporters he hasn’t decided whether he’ll go with Anderson or Condon against the Flames.
While Boucher does have fond memories of Anderson’s performance in Edmonton last fall, that’s in the past and the decision will be based on what’s best for the team now. How much of a factor will Anderson’s shutout effort a year ago weigh into this?
“It’s something in your mind, but it’s totally different circumstances because last year wasn’t a back-to-back,” Boucher said Thursday night.
“We know Calgary is coming back from a road trip. I have to look at the big picture.
“Yeah, if it was an isolated game, I think it’d be a no-brainer, but with these circumstances of back-to-back, we have to revisit and see what we need to do.”
It certainly sounded like Boucher was leaning toward Anderson on Friday, but we’ll see.
“I’d give you an answer if I had the answer because I don’t know what’s going to be the deciding factor,” he said.
“That’s what we have to sit down and look over with staff and with Pierre Groulx and see where he thinks the goalies are at and who would fit more.”
Condon, acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a fifth-round pick Nov. 2 of last year, was brought in after Nicholle’s diagnosis. The Senators knew Anderson would need a leave of absence and it’s the best deal general manager Pierre Dorion has made since taking on the role in April 2016.
While Anderson took time away to be with his wife when she underwent treatment at a New York facility, Condon started a franchise record 27 straight games. He held the fort until Anderson returned in early February and Condon’s stellar play was a big reason for the Senators’ trip to the post-season.
This season, Condon’s role is going to be different.
He knows it and that part has been adjustment.
“I try not to think about what I can’t control, whether I’m playing or I’m not playing, it’s basically, ‘What are you doing every day to get better?’ ” Condon said. “It’s all part of growing as a goalie and adjusting in this league.
“I’ve made a lot of big steps and it’s just a matter of taking a bunch of little ones and moving with that upward trajectory. I’m not overly concerned if I’m playing or not playing, it’s just about playing with the hand that you (are) dealt and if you’re not playing, you better make sure you have the best practice of the season. That’s my attitude.”
Condon didn’t officially test the unrestricted free agent market last summer because he was signed to a three-year, US $7.2million deal on June 28, but there was no shortage of interest in Condon during the talking period and it’s believed the Toronto Maple Leafs were among the most aggressive teams in pursuing him.
But Condon was always focused on staying in Ottawa. He has a good relationship with Groulx and Anderson. The Senators assured Condon he’ll get a chance to play more than a normal backup because the plan is for Anderson to play in the 55-game range and the Senators also have 19 sets of back-to-back games.
“We all work well together. There’s opportunity to support Craig here in a bigger role than I would with other teams,” he said. “That was very appealing to me. I know the opportunities are going to come. You never know what happens in this game. You need two guys who can play reliable minutes.”
Boucher said there’s no question Condon will play “a lot.”
“That’s why he’s here. That’s why we signed him,” he said. “We didn’t sign a guy who’s going to play 10 games here. We want to use him a lot for two reasons: He’s good and he’s shown he can play a lot and we want a fresh Anderson. We know that when Anderson is fresh he’s got outstanding numbers.
“Already, we’ve got 19 back-to-backs and most probably (Condon will) play in those. So there’s 19 games right there and he’s going to play more.”
I’ve made a lot of big steps and it’s just a matter of taking a bunch of little ones and moving with that upward trajectory.
The Senators have yet to decide which game it will be, but backup goaltender Mike Condon is expected to see action either Friday night in Calgary or Saturday in Edmonton as Ottawa plays the first of 19 sets of back-to-back games this season.