FOXBOROUGH — Heading into the Winter Classic, Mike Condon — Massachusetts native, Patriots fan and, oh yeah, starting goalie for the Montreal Canadiens — tried to downplay the significance of the event.
“At the end of the day, it’s another game,” he said. “Another two points.”
But once he helped secure those two points, Condon was signing a pretty different tune.
“Probably the most special [game],” he said, after stopping 27 of 28 shots for second star honors in Montreal’s 5-1 win over Boston. “I had a lot of friends and family here tonight. Bruins, Habs, Gillette Stadium, Winter Classic, New Year’s Day — probably couldn’t have been scripted any better.”
Condon was a major factor in writing that script, which ended with a pretty significant win.
From a personal perspective, his ties to this event ran deep. Condon grew up in Holliston, Mass. — a 20-minute drive from Gillette Stadium. He’s a huge Patriots fan, with a special mask that pays homage to Bill Belichick. His dad, a sergeant in the Massachussets State Police, led the Canadiens’ escort to the stadium yesterday.
From a professional perspective, Condon needed this type of performance.
The pressure’s been on for weeks now. With the feel-good, what-a-story stuff from the beginning of the year worn off, the 25-year-old undrafted free agent was subjected to what struggling goalies in Montreal get subjected to: criticism, questions and, last week, added competition, as GM Marc Bergevin swung a trade to bring in Ben Scrivens.
If Condon keeps playing like he did against the Bruins, Scrivens will be hard pressed to get a game.
Yes, Boston put just three shots on goal in the first period and yes, they were without two of their best offensive players in David Krejci and Brad Marchand. But that doesn’t take away from the fact Condon finished with a sterling .964 save percentage, or the fact he made some key saves at big moments — like this one on Ryan Spooner right at the end of the second period:
Pretty good stuff from a guy that went 2-8-0 with an .888 save percentage in December.
It was easy to see how much a good start to January meant.
“New year, big win, hopefully January’s a lot nicer to us,” Condon said. “Big win, two points. Can’t argue with that.”