October 18 – Day Seven – Condon can’t escape the Canadiens

In yesterday’s Battle of the Undefeateds, it was the Colorado Avalanche that took the overtime victory in Pittsburgh.

If you like offense, these opening 20 minutes were for you. Four goals were scored, but the opening period ended tied at 2-2. Phil Kessel (Kris Letang and Nick Bonino) opened the scoring 8:57 after the opening puck drop with a power play goal, followed 36 seconds later by Third Star of the Game Matt Cullen‘s (Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary) first tally of the season. Pittsburgh‘s 2-0 lead lasted until 3:33 remained on the clock before ex-Penguin Jarome Iginla (Second Star Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie) pulled the Avs within one with a power play tally. Patrick Wiercioch (Rene Bourque and Fedor Tyutin) completed the comeback 1:23 later with a slap shot from the point.

After a scoreless second period, Pittsburgh reclaimed the lead 9:12 after beginning with a Trevor Daley (Cullen and Justin Schultz) power play slap shot, but it lasted only 4:16 before First Star Gabriel Landeskog (Mikhail Grigorenko and Erik Johnson) took advantage of a man-advantage of his own to force overtime.

Twenty-two seconds after returning to the ice after the completion of regulation, Landeskog (MacKinnon and Johnson) capped his two-point night with his second goal, giving the Avalanche the 3-2 overtime victory.

Calvin Pickard earns the victory after saving 28-of-31 (90.3%), while Marc-Andre Fleury takes the overtime loss after saving 27-of-31 (87.1%).

Although the Pens fell, the home teams still hold a one-point advantage over the roadies in the DtFR Game of the Day series with a 5-3-1 record.

On your way home from work, make sure to buy some batteries, because you’re going to need them for your remote tonight with a dozen games taking place. Three get started at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. (Anaheim at New Jersey, San Jose at the New York Islanders and Colorado at Washington), with another trio dropping the puck 30 minutes later (Pittsburgh at Montréal [SN360/TVAS], Arizona at Ottawa [RDS] and Florida at Tampa Bay). 8 p.m. brings with it two contests (Dallas at Nashville and Los Angeles at Minnesota) and Philadelphia at Chicago trails half an hour later on NBCSN. Another pair of games finds their starts at 9 p.m. (Buffalo at Calgary and Carolina at Edmonton) and St. Louis at Vancouver, this evening’s nightcap, gets going an hour later. All times eastern.

I’m torn between two games tomorrow, both involving the return of a player to his home stadium of a season ago. Although Jon Marchessault‘s return involves a rivalry, I’m more intrigued by Mike Condon presumably starting in the Bell Centre for the Penguins.  To the City of Saints we go!

pittsburgh_penguins_logoUnknown-1Montréal never intended for this contest to mean anything. Condon was supposed to remain in the Canadiens‘ system by clearing waivers after final roster cuts. He was supposed to be an IceCap.

It’s not like the Penguins had their eye on him either. That is to say, at least not until September 19, when Matt Murray broke his hand at the World Cup of Hockey. When they saw Condon was placed on waivers, they gobbled him up with a one-year, one-way contract as a better backup goaltending option than Filip Gustavsson, Tristan Jarry or Sean Maguire.

But that’s all in the past. With Fleury playing his third game in five days last night against the Avalanche, Condon is almost assured to be thrust back into the Montréal spotlight – one of the brightest in hockey – albeit wearing different colors.

Last season with the Habs, Condon went 21-25-6 – not bad for a rookie with a team with little morale playing in front of him. His .903 save percentage ranked 64th in the NHL for a 2.71 GAA. He has one career NHL shutout to his credit – his game in Tampa Bay on March 31.

His return to Montréal should be an interesting one. When Carey Price went down last season, he looked to be more than capable of manning the crease. It took him nine games – over a month of action – before he lost a game in regulation! But he eventually regressed to the rookie mean, having losing skids of nine, four (one in overtime) and five games. Perhaps he was thrust into the spotlight too quickly (although that was never the original plan in Montréal) and will improve as a backup over the next season or more, but his initial audition left much to be desired. For his sake, I hope Habs fans don’t give him too hard a time this evening.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Montréal‘s Nathan Beaulieu (+5 [sixth-best in the NHL]) and Al Montoya (.942 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the league] for a 1.92 GAA [seventh-best in the NHL] and one win [tied for eighth in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Cullen (three points, two of which are helpers [both tied for team-lead]), Kessel (two goals [leads the team]), Evgeni Malkin (three points, two of which are assists [both tied for team-lead]) and Sheary (three points, two of which are helpers [both tied for team-lead]).

Montoya’s lone win of the season was in Buffalo against a team missing two of their top-four goalscorers from a season ago. Furthering that point, he gave up four goals in Ottawa two days later. I expect the Penguins‘ offense to be too much for the Canadiens to handle, regardless of their scoring success against Condon.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mike Antonovich (1951-) – Center Antonovich played only 87 games over four seasons in the NHL, most of which was with New Jersey. Instead, he predominantly spent his time in the now-defunct WHA, playing 486 games in that league.
  • Kjell Samuelsson (1958-) – Over 14 seasons, Samuelsson laced up the skates 813 times. The defenseman played almost 730 games for a Pennsylvanian team, but a majority of those (545, to be exact) were for Philadelphia.

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